“He told me I was a failure…”

15 Sep

Periodically, I receive the stories of the lives of victims of domestic violence. Please read Rhonda’s un-edited story, and know that there are people out there to help you. Click here for more information.

My name is Rhonda and I am a Domestic Violence Survivor! I say that with and exclamation mark because I speak it loudly and with assurance that I have come so far to go back.
My story begins really when I was young only because I saw things in my own home growing up that I should or no child should see and this created a future for me that only what I knew to be right was really oh so wrong. I lived in a upper middle class neighborhood, we always had what we wanted. Growing up we were at Country Clubs and we may not have been rich we had enough money to go on vacations every year and had the things that we wanted. My father, however, was abusive, not to the extent of what I encountered, but looking back it definitely defined what I was going to be looking for in my future relationships. I would protect me mother and my father hated me for this so he took it out on me. He told me I was a failure and would never amount to anything, no one would ever love or care about me as I was. Oh how those words would come back to haunt me. I had an older sister and a younger brother and both were so close to my dad, I stayed true and close to my mother until the day she died. Never knowing the true reason for his hatred towards me or why I was never one that he felt he wanted to be close to was troubling and I would carry this burden for so many years.
As I grew older I would somehow chose men that were going to downgrade me in some way because that is all I knew as to how a man was to treat me. Never knowing any different and never getting any counseling because I just thought that is the way I am to be loved is why I put myself below every man I met. They told me so many times I was worthless, I guess I was, right. So material things and being at their every whim was what I felt was the only way to hold on to love, but it was not love it was my pain of the feeling of worthlessness and insecurities about me that eventually had me be the loser and other women become the wives and lifelong partners. So sad but it is how it all began.
At the age of 39, I was married and had a young son, 4 years old. My marriage was not a good marriage, he was verbally abusive but of course I stayed because he was supposed to treat me this way, right. Wrong!! Well I did leave, while separated I met a man, oh what a man. He was so handsome, he was so nice, he was so caring, he was what I had been looking for all my life. I could not stop thinking about him. He was just out of a relationship so we talked on the phone everyday and would see each other on occasion. Oh, how I thought, this was great he is taking it slow so I must be a good thing, plus all he has to say to me is nice things. We talked for hours, long conversations getting to know each other. Little did I know that was not everything there was to know. He told me at one point he was going to give that relationship one more chance because he felt that he still loved her and wanted to find out if that was real. I let go and was going to move on, but then quickly that did not work. Now in 2001 our relationship begins and I really would get to know this person.
So many people say that when you see the signs you should run, yes there are signs but somehow the mind can be manipulated into believing what another is telling us. When our relationship started, he was arrested and needed help getting out of jail. That is not the biggest sign, the biggest sign is the reason he was arrested, Domestic Abuse, now that is a huge sign. His ex had said that he hit her and blacked her eye and broke her ribs. Of course, he told me that she was lying and he never touched her, so me being the worthless, need to be loved and the only way I feel loved is if you use and abuse me, kind of girl, I believed him and put both feet in.
He did go to jail for 10 months, his attorney told him that it was best to plea out on the case because she had pictures AND I find out that he had previous domestic charges on his record. Pictures, other cases, yes, but he told me that she hit herself and took pictures and that the other cases were untrue. I believed him AGAIN. Plus I did not ever see that side of him so I HAD to take his word for it. Looking back this is the biggest sign I missed and the worst was yet to come because I would be this person that had the black eyes the broken ribs and I did NOT hit myself to get them.
I visit him everyday because he worked in the kitchen he could have visits everyday and I was there. I would go home at night write him a letter and take calls from him. This was daily routine for me. I had taken up with his children and would have them over at the house, take them shopping and anything else they needed. I would always make sure he had money on his jail account. My life was now devoted to him and I was in hook, line and sinker.
He got out and I thought all of this was behind us and our life would be happily ever after. I thought that he would never hit me, hell I never thought he hit those other girls either, so this person had been railroaded. I thought that they just could not let go of this great man so they concocted stories about him. WOW, how naïve was I!!!
Life was good, for a little while that is, until the man that was portrayed in court was the real man not the man that I thought I was talking to,, holding on to and wanting to have a future with. So, we have this house, or rather I have this house and he starts back to work with his own carpet installation company. We are living together and his kids, my son and so many other fun people are coming over spending time with everyone was happy times.
My life went straight to hell in a flash. I found out that he was doing cocaine and I became angry about this, mind you I never did drugs, I was so naïve to drugs he would tell me that I was like the Nancy Reagan of drugs, totally against them. Yes, I was! His demeanor started to change, he was not so fun anymore, I would watch what I would say, I started to remove friends and more importantly my rock, my mother, from my life. My life was his life now I was just a piece of the puzzle world he was living in. I had not mind of my own, I had no life outside of him, I even had my son stay with his dad because this was becoming a not so good place I wanted him in. He had not hit me yet but I should have known that was coming. I kept thinking this was going to get better, but it only got worse. He had started the process with me as he had done other times, I just did not know I was in the process of becoming a victim.
He became verbally abusive, telling me that I needed to lose weight, I was at my lowest weight, wearing a size 7 jeans. I was 5’7” and I weighed 135, this was not overweight, but now I am becoming insecure about the way I looked and the way others looked at me. I was feeling that I could please him. I tried harder to hold on to him. I would make sure that he had dinner when he came home, made sure he had money in his pocket. He would be gone for a few days in a row at a time now if the time I began to question myself not him, myself, crazy I know but true it is.
He continued using cocaine and the only way that I could keep him and hold on to him is sick but it happened, I told him that I would use cocaine. This I thought would keep him home and he would love me. I began using cocaine and became an addict. He began to hit me, but he hit me in places only I would know. He would hit me in the stomach or kick me in the ribs. I was living in hell and I never thought at this point to get out, he manipulated me to the point that I became his puppet. I would still go to work everyday and support us as he was not really working as I had found that he was out doing the drugs everyday even when he said he was working. I would come home from work and it was hell but for some sick reason it was ok to be living in hell, I knew no different. I would lay in bed and want to cry but I learned that crying only made things worse. If I cried while he was hitting or punching me that only made that worse, so I learned how not to cry and take it. He always would say he was sorry and he loved me, he would buy me a gift or something. I knew that he was sorry, he had to be, to hurt someone you love, you have to feel bad for hurting them. But now I realize the love I was thinking was love was not really love it was all about control.
We got evicted from this house and I lost my job, we are now homeless and addicted to cocaine. The strangest thing about this is that I knew cocaine was wrong but I did not know that him beating me up was wrong. How is that possible? His Aunt had rental property that she let us rent. I worked odd jobs, since I had worked since I was 15 years old, I knew not working was not an option. Again, I knew the difference between right and wrong except when it came to abusing me. The memories at the new place would be more of the nightmares that I would be having years later.
When we moved in this house it had an upstairs that we never really used it was an old house and it was more like an attic. We began hanging with really rough people, drug dealers from Detroit to be exact. He would do odd jobs for them in exchange for the cocaine. I did not want to do cocaine anymore it was not getting me where I thought it would when I first made the decision, but I was stuck at t his point. My heart could not leave this man, I had to take care of him. He got really made at me one night and to this day I do not know what made him so mad but he grabbed me by my hair and threw me on the floor, kicked me so many times in the stomach that I was curled up so tight in a fetal position that he could not get his foot in to kick anymore. When he could not kick anymore he grabbed my hair again and pulled me up off of the floor and having me by the hair was running me into the other room at a fast pace, I could hardly keep up. He rammed my head into the wall so hard and fast that my head broke through the dry wall, there was now a huge hole in the wall. He did not stop there, I was seeing stars and fell back, but he fell on top of me and began chocking me. He chock me till I blacked out. I came to and he was not there. I called him, he answered and said that he left because he thought I would call the police. Well, I told him that my dad taught me that what goes on behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. He came home and I felt so loved. OH MY GOD….LOVED???
Remember he had still not hit me where people could see, every place that the bruises were no one would be able to see unless I showed you. He started spending a lot of time in the “attic” and the bathroom. I mean he would lock the door to the attic and be in the bathroom for a hour or more. If I checked on him, he would yell mean horrible things to me and then when he finally came out I would get hit.
I hated cocaine I truly did, but I had no way out, I had no friends at this point at all and I never talked to my mom. I knew that this was not the life but it was what I chose so I had to live with it. He became angry because we did not have the money for cocaine and the guys from Detroit were now in jail getting ready to really do some hard time. He decided or maybe just his normal reaction looking back, but it was going to be taken out on me. This is when it began to show that I was being abused, the abuse became worse, the chocking became harder to where there were marks on my neck and I had marks on my face, he did not care so much where he hit me at this point, hell I did not go anywhere and saw pretty much no one. He had me under his control, his spell and his dictation.
Finally we lost this house, his Aunt was going to sell the house, so we had to move. We had nowhere to move. He said that he was going to live with his mother but I could not come with, she would not let me live there. Now, his mother was addicted to pain pills and let everyone from anywhere stay at her house, but for some reason not me. Ok, he let me become homeless. I lived in a storage unit which is one that you are not allowed to live in. I had turned everyone away except for the man that “loved” me. I should have known that if he had loved me he would never have let me live in a storage shelter, but then again you see NO signs when you are in this situation. You might be thinking my story is over, no the worse is yet to come.
So, coming from an upper middle class family to being homeless and using food stamps for any food I can get, I should have thought to run as fast as I could. Yes, I ran but always to him. I would closed the storage door at night and sleep on my closes or furniture in there, unsafe but safe. During the day I would walk around, I had a pre pay phone and he would call me everyday to make sure I was ok but it did not change the fact that I was living homeless and he was living in a house. It was raining one day and he came by the storage unit, I thought he had come to rescue me, no he just stopped by and asked if I wanted to go fishing the next day. The next day never came. I always kept time on my pre paid phone because I just knew that he would call or text or something. I began receiving calls from unknown numbers that would hang up on me or say mean things to me, make fun of me being homeless. It was a girl and I could not figure out who would be doing this to me or who had this number only my son, Michael (finally I say his name in this story) and Michael’s mother. Well I found out that he was seeing someone else during this time, do not know how long it had been going on but his mother finally came clean with it to me, now I know the reason I could not stay at her house. So here I am, still loving him, holding on that he will be back to me any way that I can have him, hit me, beat me, have others abuse me with phone calls, however it is to be, I can’t lose the “love” we have, I can’t lose “the best thing that ever happened to me, so I have to do something to make him realize that we have stability, hear that I have to do something. I am not asking him, I have to take care of him.
I reach out to an old friend tell her what is going on with my life, she was a friend from high school. I am only 2 years into a 14 year relationship, can you imagine if this is the first 2 years what happens in the next 12. She helps, wow, how amazing is that. She gets me out of the storage and puts me in a hotel for a week, she also tells me that a friend of ours from high school is the CEO of a top rehab center in Louisville. We contact him and he puts me in the center for 30 days no charge to me. I call Michael and tell him that I am going to rehab so we can have a life, I ask him to come with me as my friend said he would accept him but we would have to be at two separate facilities we could not be together. The rehab had two facilities in town. He yelled at me and told me that he did not love me and to leave him alone. I would not accept that, he has to love me! The morning I am to go into rehab I stop by his mother’s house to change his mind. He busts through the door after I knocked and throws me to the ground and tells me to leave. I leave and I should have left his life. I go to rehab for 30 days, during those 30 days I could only think of him. I did speak with my mom and dad during this time and there are words that will stick with me forever in my life. One conversation with my dad truly reflects the abuse and betrayal he felt for me. He told me that I was killing my mom, so when your mom dies know that it was you that killed her. He said I was causing her so much pain that I would end up seeing her dead and I would have to live with knowing that my ways is what killed her. You will see later in my story that when she passed my life was crushed and it pushed me so much more to Michael. Sad but true, I guess I had to stay with the abuse to feel the pain I caused my mother by the words of my father. I was worthless, useless and just a piece of shit, Michael was all I deserved.
I talked to Michael a few times while in rehab, he was nice and apologized to me told me he loved me and wanted me to get better. He also told me that he during the times he was in the bathroom for hours at a time, he had started to inject cocaine which he used the word “fire” cocaine. Oh my god, he is a junkie, I really have to get clean to save him. Crazy how your thinking can become so damaged with manipulating people. I went to see him on a day I was allowed to have an outside visit. I went to his sister’s house where he was living now. He was a little uneasy to see me so I was leaving to go back to rehab, he found me a ride or I was going to take a bus. On the way back to rehab he jumped all over me for nothing, started hitting me in my head, in my side and demanded my food stamp card. As I was getting out of the car, I gave him my food stamp card. Taking care of him and knowing he can always count on me will make him love me, my way of thinking. I never worried about the beatings but it was everything else I worried about, I worried he would run out of my life so I gave it my all.
I get out of rehab, move in with my son’s aunt and her husband. I am alone in this world at this brief moment, but my thoughts are that I have to build it back up so he will come back. Everything and I do mean everything was about having him in my life. I get three jobs and try to start over. Finally, I get a job that will allow me to move into an apartment and have my son be a part of my life. This is where I face my regrets in my life, but all the while still holding on to Michael and our life together.
I find an apartment close to the company I am now working and I feel like I can wake up each day clean and sober with a fresh mind, but my mind never stops loving Michael. He starts calling and coming by again. He said he is proud of me, he said that he will get clean but just not right now. I find out that he is now smoking Meth. He is in and out of my life, other girls the whole addiction life. I remember he comes over to get money, food or sleep. If I did not have money to give him, it would be a reason to hurt me to beat me up to call me every name in the book, the ridicule me into believing I was still a worthless piece of shit. It worked he sucked me in again and again. The one thing he never sucked me into was drugs ever again would I do that again to myself or my son. I knew that was wrong, oh so wrong. I was better than that, but I was not better than being beat on. The beatings were not as frequent as they were because he would be gone for a couple of weeks at a time on his meth high, but he always came back.
He was at the apartment sleeping and when he woke up said that he was going to run up to the store right down the road. I gave him the keys to my car because he had been dropped off a couple of days earlier. I gave him my card to go the store, I should have gone with him because he was gone, gone, gone. He took my car and my card and went on a meth binge. He would tell me that he would be back in the morning because he knew I needed to go to work, but he wasn’t. I had to walk to work, I was close but it was still a hike to get there when you are walking. My payday came and I had to go pick up my paycheck find a place to cash it, it was 4 miles away. I walked to cash it, I walked to the grocery all the while asking is this my life.
I remember he was gone for a week or so when he told me that he would pick me up from work this one day because it was his Aunts surprise birthday party so he wanted us to go out there. I got a call from Michael’s mom that he had been in a car accident. Someone came to get me from work so I could get to the hospital. I get to the hospital and he is ok. Found out that my car was totaled, he fell asleep at the wheel and crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a telephone pole. He had been up for 8 days straight on meth and was falling asleep. Thank the good lord above no one was seriously injured. He came home and promised he would get clean. I knew that if he did not, he would die and I could not lose him.
He was never one to keep his promises and to this day still is one that never keeps his promises as you will find in my story. Now I am without a car and no surprise he leaves again after he heals enough to be able to get high again. The one thing I have learned about addiction is that each person has to reach their own rock bottom. You may think being a sober person that if you could have died you would stop doing drugs, that is not the way an addict thinks. They may think about being clean and sober but the love for the drug is a much greater love then they feel for anything or anyone. I guess looking back I should be thankful he was gone, not getting high, but gone for those brief periods because they kept me from have to suffer the abuse during those times. Logic is not something you think when you are in an abusive relationship. Logic was like a disease to me, could not imagine my life any different than the dysfunctional way it was, but it still after everything was the only way I knew, did others live different, I did not know because what goes on in your house stays in your house, right. So the only people that knew what I had suffered at this point was my friend from high school and anyone in rehab during our groups. To see me on the street my life was perfect……WRONG!!
This was my life for the next several years until my mom passed away in 2007. My dad passed away in February 2007 which I was not so saddened by. I was sad because he was my father but not sad as in I lost a part of me sad, I don’t know if that makes sense but it was the feelings that I had. He hurt me and the hurt I had to live with for a lifetime. My father’s passing was sudden, he had not been sick, but my mother had been sick for many years with emphazyma and CPOD, she was a breast cancer survivor.
I was with Michael and a couple of his friends when I received a call from my brother that my mom was in the hospital and it did not look good. Michael was not going to take me he had his buddy’s wife take me. I did not care how I got there just get me to my mom, but looking back a person tells you they love you, yes, they should be there for you no matter what and take you to the hospital when your mom may not make it. Michael never seduced me as a person in a romantic way he seduced my mind and my heart to be whatever puppet he needed today. I see that now, but not then.
My mom passed while we were at the hospital, she never made it out of the emergency room. My world is falling apart, my rock is gone, my best friend has gone to heaven to be an angel. It thank God everyday that I was able to get back with my mom and a few days before she passed we had such a beautiful day talking about everything, she was such a beautiful person and everybody loved her so much. She was simply amazing and I know that she is the most beautiful angel that watches over me. But at the time, I was angry , I only had one person and she was now gone, my brother and sister quit speaking to me years ago, probably because of what my dad was telling them, I truly to this day have no idea what happened there, but to this day we are estranged and never speak. I have tried to reach out but to no avail.
Sadness looms over me, I have never needed Michael, I have always given, I was hoping he would be here in this time for me, no surprise he was not. My mom’s viewing was a one full day. Michael’s mom had to drop me off because Michael had my car and did not come home. He called and apologized, crazy how even during this horrible time in my life, just the sound of his voice and an apology made everything ok. My Aunt dropped me off where Michael was after the viewing, he was the nicest to me that he had been in such a long while, I guess he did have a little bit of a heart. There was nothing that he said wrong, bad or mean. He held me tight kissed me, oh to have this feeling everyday is what I dreamed of. He took me to his mom’s for the night she wanted to give me a rosary. I tried not to cry because crying only made things worse, so even the death of my mom made me fear crying, have real emotions. Michael left as soon as we got to his mom’s house. His mom and I sat for hours and talked, I cried but he was not there it was ok to cry I felt. She gave me a rosary that I was going to carry with me at her funeral the next day. Michael called several times during the night he said he would be back in time to take me to the funeral and go with me. The next morning came and he was not there, called him so many times. The saddest thing is that my car was at my apartment and he had his mom’s car. I am so upset as the morning continues and time get closer to my mom’s funeral, he is not there. His mom finds a car to get me to the funeral but I am late to my mother’s funeral. The one person in my life that was everything to me is gone and now the only other person that means anything to me is gone doing whatever and making me possibly miss my mom’s funeral.
I am heartbroken by everything at this point. Things go back to my normal, which was not normal to most people. I am now 6 years in a relationship that is abusive in every way possible, but I don’t see that. It is like knowing cocaine was wrong but not knowing the beatings were, not normal, I know that now. So, now I get life insurance from my mom’s life insurance policy. I get $45,000, which might as well been 0 because everything went back to hell in a matter of months as you can imagine.
We moved to a house his cousin owned, life was ok, I had money to be able to take care of everything, everyone but myself. I bought him a truck, a used one but a nice one. I had a Jeep, my favorite car ever. I was thinking that things could change somehow but they did not they just continued to spiral downwards. I hardly left the house only to go to work and back, I had no social life, no friends to speak of. I did however try to get Michael to have a relationship with his children, he had three from two different marriages. His youngest was my son’s age, so he moved in with us and my son moved in as well. I grew close to his son and by Christmas of that year Michael was saying it was going to be great to spend Christmas as a family with his kids as well. There would be problems, one, Michael was still getting high on meth and two he never keeps his promises. But the hopes still stayed with me.
Christmas came and my son, his son, his daughter and other son and me would end up spending Christmas alone without Michael. He was nowhere to be found, he called and said he would be there soon but soon never came. Finally he arrived home several days later, when I confronted him it became a battle and I was the one with the bruises and battle wounds and the words Whore, worthless piece of shit, etc running through my head. I know that my son and his son heard this and this was the first time my son was exposed to this, it broke my heart.
My son would go back and forth between me and his dad, he went to school in his dad’s area so he stayed with him mostly. I tried to make things right it just was not something I could do. I found out that Michael was seeing another girl all the while we were having Christmas, his son living with us, the whole time. So I decided to find out what was going on, for some reason I thought I could be the strong person and confront him about this. I found that he was with her and they were staying at another friends place but it was mostly a place they all got high together at, no one ever really slept there. Then they were at a hotel several times. On one of these occasions, I had someone take me to the hotel and I took the truck and left them with nothing. I hid the truck in my backyard so he could not come take it. This was wrong because I should have known what was coming when he did finally get back to the house, but I did it without thinking those thoughts. The next day he called and totally cussed me out over the phone demanding the truck back, he said that if he did not have the truck back he could not get back home, he said he would stop seeing her it was the drugs and she did them. Damn you, again, I believed him and yeah he needed to get back home. He found a way home and got the truck but not before he grabbed me by the hair pulling me across the floor by my hair, then chocking me for me to fully understand that I will never do that again.
Life continues in this way but his ex has come to get his son, if he is not living there she is not going to have another woman raise her son. I agree totally. He does come home for a little while and I mean several weeks, so I am thinking he is getting clean and not seeing that girl, no that is not the case. He is getting high in the basement and still talking to her but she went back to her husband. For him to be able to leave he would usually create an argument so that he had a reason to leave. He started to get angry about something, I don’t know what. When I say I don’t know what it’s not that I don’t remember it’s because it was anything or nothing at all but it was my fault, he did not need a reason is my point. I told him that I was going to look at his phone because I knew he was seeing her he hit me harder. The stairs to our basement were concrete and he knocked me down prior to getting to the stairs and then took me by the feet and yanked me down the stairs the back of my head hitting each stair. When I got to the bottom he pulled me up by my hair and made me sit in a chair and not move. He told me if I made any move he would hurt me. I sat there for I know what seemed like hours, at this point I told him if he wanted to go he could just leave, I would not look at his phone and yes I was crying at this point but the tears were sadness and shame. I was in physical and emotional pain I hurt so bad. I began to get up so I could go upstairs and I could barely walk, my back, my legs, my head all bruised and hurting. He was not done yet, he pulled me back to the chair and put his hands around my neck and told me he would tell me when I could go upstairs. Finally after a text or phone call, I truly don’t remember which, came to him, he said he was leaving but he would be back in about an hour. I made my way upstairs and just laid on the couch and cried. I knew he would not be back in an hour but then again I never knew when he was coming or going.
I was so overwhelmed by everything that my job started to fall apart. I left my job and I did receive unemployment but the money I got from my mom’s life insurance was gone. I found that he was still seeing her and I actually saw them together at a gas station. I followed, when they got to a place together, I waited for him to come out. He came out alone and got in the truck, I followed him, I wanted to talk to him, he was turning down streets up streets, then he turned down a street and did a quick turnaround I put my car in reverse and my car lost control, it flipped three times before landing in someone’s yard. I remember I was in the passenger seat when I came to and my car was totaled. He was at the door and the EMS was there too. They were taking me to the hospital, they told him the hospital. I remember all kinds of tests, they had to cut my clothes off of me. I asked the nurses to please call him because he was not there and I know I had been there for hours. I had a concussion, broken ribs and many bruises all over my body. He finally came to take me home from the hospital, but this was at the time the nurses were asking if there was anyone else they could call to come pick me up. After his beating me up then the wreck I was a wounded sole that could barely move. He took me home got me my medicine and left…yes…left. I could not get up to go to the bathroom, get anything to drink or eat, nothing. His ex called to check on me and said that she would come out to check on me. She did but for what reason I do not know I think that she was trying to get him back, I found out several things about her later after everything came to a head.
Still recovering from everything, he wanted more. He came home, nice like he had been the doting man and never done anything wrong. He was only home a couple of days and needed to leave again, I was upset about him leaving he knew I was in no shape to take care of myself but the meth was more important. He started an argument with me or I said something that started the argument and that was all that was needed. He pulled me in the bedroom because he had a friend in the basement, he threw me on the bed started chocking me and then pulled me up by my hair and punched me in the ribs. I buckled to the ground because any healing on my broken ribs was now starting over because he re-broke them and he punched me several times in the face. I was one broken sole. I managed to get up and get to the kitchen, he then took a metal Swiffer mop and wacked it across my back, so hard that it bent the Swiffer mop pole almost in half. I fell to my knees and the to the floor, knowing it was making a lot of noise I was hoping his friend would come up from downstairs to help but no he did not. He drug me across the floor back to the bedroom and told me to stop crying, I was bawling I was in so much physical pain, I tried but I could not and at this point I think his meth and friend became more important so he left.
We are being evicted from this house as well now, the electricity has been turned off. We move over to his sister’s house. I receive a call that he is being locked up and they have him pulled over right now. I go to where he is pulled over and what I see is just beyond me. They have on the hood of the truck, seringes, needles just so much it is unbelievable. He is sitting in the back of a police car and one officer takes me off to the side and questions me because the truck is in my name. I know NOTHING about any of this. They tell me that they were doing sting operations and that he was dealing meth and there was other powder substances. I just could not think at the moment. The officer gave me a word of advise and I should have taken it, he was the first one to tell me to get away from him and it was not because of the home life it was because he knew drugs would lead to nothing but jails, institutions and/or death. He gave me Michaels phone but kept the truck, Michael went to jail and was now going to face 25 years in prison. I finally was looking at his phone and he was not there and boy what I found. There were naked pictures of the girl he was seeing and to my surprise these pictures had a date on them of Christmas Eve and Christmas. How sad that you would be taking naked pictures of some girl getting high and missing Christmas with your kids. But was that a sign that made me walk away? NO.
We are now into 7 years together, his daughter is due a grand baby this year 2008. He is still getting high and still seeing that girl and still living with me and beating me up to be able to go get high and be with that girl. All the while he is waiting to see if he is going to prison for 25 years. I paid the attorney so much money over the course of the past 7 years for him. His daughter was giving birth and I tried to find him to get him to her but to no avail, I told his brother and I went on to the hospital. He arrived and she asked him to leave. I left too but I know this broke his heart, but I could do nothing for him and for the first time I did not feel sorry for him. Time goes by and the court case continues for the next year. He makes promises of getting clean but they do not happen.
We are at his sisters and he is getting more and more angry, probably his own demons but I suffer the blunt. We are watching tv one night and he is laying on the couch I am sitting up leaning on the couch. We are talking about something and then he becomes enraged, he punches me so hard in the eye that my eye swells up with blood. As I am crying and blowing my nose, the blood in my eye puffs out each time I blow. I have nerve damage to this day on the left side of my face where he damaged a nerve in my face. On the very next day we were going to get him something but going back home so he would not be gone out running around due to the court case pending and we run out of gas. I was driving and he reached over and punched me in the right eye because we ran out of gas, it swelled and was immediately black. My face looked like I had been beaten to a pulp both eyes not black and swollen. He got out of the car and found a way back to his sisters. I walked to a gas station and asked if I could get some gas I did not have any money but the girl behind the counter knew I was having many troubles in my life. I got some gas and then she gave me $5 more to get back home. She could see my face and I am sure she wanted to ask but never did but I know she was hoping the gas was for me to go as far away from the trouble little did she know it was to go right back to it. There are nice people in this world I know that.
Life took a turn for the better when the case finally went to court, he was cleared of all charges a jury found him not guilty, his attorney was good that is for sure. He came out of court and wanted to get clean, this is the first time he ever said that, he wanted to go somewhere that no one would find him and he could get clean. We went to friends in Indiana, I found a job and we stayed there for 3 months. He was clean and sober for his granddaughter’s 1st birthday and his relationship with his daughter was beginning to be a good relationship again.
We moved back to Louisville and in with his mom. I began a full time job at a great company and then we got a place of our own. He was working out at the gym everyday getting himself fit and in shape. He was looking like the man I fell in love with and he was acting like it. He started working everyday with his own business and it was doing well. He met some people at the gym who were into the bodybuilding contests they encouraged him to get in the contest. He started taking steroids though and this created another him. He would have rages they were different than the other drugs he had taken but had the same effect. I would get up and get ready for work fix my hair and he would get up get mad because of the hairspray smell would wake him up. He would come home from work and you would never know what the mood would be. I would constantly be careful of what I would say or how I would say it, walking on egg shells became my daily routine. Scared of the pain that could be caused. I sheltered myself as good as I knew how never knowing if it was right or not but I never let anyone else have an insight into my pain I carried the burden alone.
We are now into 8 years of our relationship and I have had no friends since 2001 that I have spent time with or talked on the phone with. My mom is gone my brother and sister have no relationship with me as they feel I guess I am a burden and they live these great lives. Mine is one of turmoil and drama that I wish upon no one ever. Jump at your own shadow kind of fear. Spray hairspray and get hit with the hairspray can because it woke someone up. The egg shells have forever left scars on my feet. Just everyday going through the motions not really knowing who you are because someone has stolen that from you, not knowing if you would be alive to see grandchildren of your own, just simply not knowing what the world had in store for you tomorrow. This year was much the same as before just so sad to say that you are scared to walk away but also scared to stay. Your mind has no sense of direction it has no thought process of its own because it is controlled by another person. You are trapped, but you still in some sick way love this person that has caused you so much pain.
In 2010 Michael is going to compete in his first bodybuilding contest. He has been training hard and I have been the supportive person in his life. In bodybuilding when you are competing you have to have certain meals close to the contest. I would measure out his meals set up everything for him for his daily workouts. His meal preps took me about 3 hours a day to get ready for him. I wanted him to win, I was proud of him, I loved him and he loved me, right.
I was at work one day and he text me he wanted to take me to lunch, wow, this was great! He picked me up and said he had to make a stop first and then we would go to lunch. He said he had to get a permit to do some work in a building, but he took me to get a marriage lisence. He said he wanted to get married before his contest he said he loved me and he would not be where he was if it was not for me. He said he would be dead if I had not been there to support him through everything. We got married the weekend before his contest. I was the happiest girl he really did love me and he was changing. Oh I was so in love, for the first time in a very, very long time I felt a happiness come over me. I should have known the feeling would not last.
He placed third in his very first contest, oh I was the proudest wife there and so happy to be able to say wife and not girlfriend. This was such a great moment a moment that I reflect on with a smile and there have not been too many of those.
We got married in November of 2010, going into 2011 I thought this was going to be a great year, he had another contest around the Ky Derby time and he won that contest. Things were good, he had not hit me in a while, he would get angry and leave the room. All my thoughts were that he was changing and that we would have normal disagreements, but those were just thoughts in my head.
By then end of 2011 he was growing distant, it seemed he was pulling away and I knew what that meant or what it had meant in the past. He was growing extremely angry with me, calling me names, telling me I was fat, ugly, that no man would ever want me. He would say he could not make love to me anymore that I disgusted him in so many ways. He would knock me to the floor in the middle of making love and hurt my feelings so bad I became so ashamed and all the feelings of worthlessness would come back to my head. My insecurities about myself all rushing to me. When I looked in the mirror I began to see what he was telling me I was. So sad but true, I became a recluse never wanting to leave the house except to go to work. I would cry on the way to work and talk to God asking him to make me pretty, but God knew that my beauty was inside I had to find it.
We took a family vacation to Florida the summer of 2012. I thought we were having a great time with everyone. I would find out later, much later that Michael had been having an affair with someone that I knew . We come back from vacation and he was growing distant I thought it was me because of the way he made me feel about myself. Exactly his plan, make me feel worthless so he feels better about what his secret life is all about, I would blame myself and that would take the blame from him. We were at a party for one of the bodybuilders and I received a text from this man we knew. He said that his wife and Michael had been having an affair for quite some time. I confronted Michael on the way home. Of course he denied it. Several people then came forward and told me he was having an affair with her. I told them they were lying. No they were telling the truth, it finally came out. He told me he was having the affair and he was leaving me. It all made sense, however, it did not change the worthlessness and insecurities I now felt because of his words.
He left me for her. He up and left me and our life after all these years all that I had suffered all that I had done. He told me that he wanted to try to work it out, so we went to counseling, but he kept on seeing her so it did not work. He left with the clothes on his back. He would call me and stop by and say things that were promising but I realize looking back that was just to give me hope and keep me on a string and under his control. It worked though, I kept the hope alive for a couple of years. Then by now being 2015 I knew he was not coming back. He is gone 14 years later it is here I guess the rest of my life begins.
Currently we are still legally married but I did get divorce papers in the mail that he said he sent out 18 months ago. He is still with that woman. I don’t know about you but I do know that if I was with someone and still married I would be shouting divorce so loud because if I wanted to marry someone else and I filed papers 18 months ago, I would make damn sure you got them to sign. I don’t know what his reasoning is but I guess I never knew his reasoning.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder), Anxiety, Depression and I have to be on medication for the rest of my life. I have to understand that the reasons for his actions were not my fault. Putting your hands on someone is never right, it is always wrong. Suffering for years and then suffering for more trying to get myself right. I still to this day have a hard time feeling good about me and the way that I look the way that others see me. I have nerve damage a few places due to the abuse that I endured. People will say “I would have beat that guy down and ran away”, no they would not do that. People never being in a domestic violent situation will never know the way this works. You are manipulated, controlled, abused in many ways and you feel there is no one that would ever understand. I look back and my strength came when I finally let go. I thought I was strong by holding on and keeping us together but I was wrong.
I pray everyday and I talk to a certain star I see in the sky hoping it is my mother up there looking over me. I believe in God and I believe I will see my mother again otherwise I probably would have killed myself many years ago. I wanted to die so badly at times during this relationship, I wanted him to kill me so I did not have to take it anymore. There are two reasons why I did not kill myself, one, my son, two suicide I felt I would not see my mother again. But I did not know how to live with the pain.
He used me for so many years as well as abused me, he took so much from me that I can’t get back, I am not talking about material things. I was a different person from the time I met him till today, almost like I have lived two different lives. I will be 53 years old this year, I don’t know if he will ever change but I do know that I am changing, changing to be a better me and love myself. I got a tattoo, never liked them but I got one on my forearm that simply says “beautiful” so every morning that I am getting ready my arm is up and I see “beautiful” in the mirror. This tells me that I am a beautiful person and love life, I just need to learn how to live it. Live the life you imagined, the one you dream about, make it become real. Earlier this year I was having nightmares and flashbacks to the point that I would feel the punch again while I was sleeping, I had never experienced this before. My therapist understood, so it was real because the trauma I suffered was real.
I miss my mom, maybe I would have been stronger if she was here, maybe not but I know I am getting stronger everyday of my life and that is not a bad thing. Life has its struggles for me still but I can get through them, I am a single mom and my son who will be 18 this year is the only man in my life. I have to heal myself inside before that ever becomes an option of another man in my life. I have to pamper my inner soul with kindness and gentle peaceful times and thoughts. When my soul feels the way it should and I truly love me for me it will be then and only then will another man be an option for me, if another man never comes in my life I am ok with that too because I will be ok with being me and free from pain and abuse.
May God Bless anyone in a domestic violent relationship tonight and every night because remember you should always sleep with the angels, God Loves You.
Rhonda Reynolds
Louisville, KY

Is Your Faith Community Safe?

14 Sep stacy.peterson

Did you know that churches and other places of worship are NOT usually looked at as allies by domestic violence shelters?  Did you know that the rate of domestic violence is the same in the church as it is outside of the church?  Did you know that more than 1/4th of all women will be victims of domestic violence in her lifetime?

If this sounds extreme to you, I don’t blame you.  It would have sounded preposterous to me before 2007, as well.  In 2007, I counseled Stacy Peterson (a church-goer) for the last time, and about 2 months later, she disappeared, and she’s never been found.  Her husband, Drew Peterson (also, a church-goer) is the only suspect in her disappearance, and was convicted in 2012 for killing his previous wife, Kathleen Savio.

I know today that churches are not typically great allies for victims of abuse, and I have to keep talking about it until that changes.  That’s why I’m so excited to share this with you…

On October 1st, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in memory of Stacy Peterson, and Kathleen Savio, I will be part of launching an initiative to start changing the church culture.  The initiative is called “The Safe Faith Community Project,” and through it, we will be helping churches become allies of victims and of shelters around the country.

If you are a pastor or church leader, and would like to find out more about this, send me a message.  Let victims know that you will stand with them.

Until then, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.




Let’s Honor September 11th

10 Sep

I’ve officiated quite a few funerals in the 13 years that I’ve been an ordained pastor.  Funerals are always for the people left behind, but they are usually representative of the wishes of the one who died.  Not once at a funeral have I heard someone say that their dad’s last wishes were for his kids to get the “corner office.”


Why?  Because the end of life brings the truth, “you can’t take it with you when you go” to the forefront of our minds.  So, on this eve of the 14th anniversary of 9-11, I’m thinking about what the 2,977 victims (no, I’m not including the hijackers, as they were NOT victims of anything) would tell us today.  I’m certain they’d say:


Come together.  Those will be your best days.

Don’t be Democrats or Republicans.  Be American citizens.

There is no black or white.  There is just humanity.

Don’t waste time hating.  God is love.

Don’t ever forget that you have an enemy.

Always know that God is bigger than the enemy.

Hate shouts, but love endures.  Love well.

Hug your kids and kiss your spouse.

A country divided against itself cannot stand.  Unite no matter what.

Black lives matter.  And white lives matter.  And Asian lives matter.

Be kind.  You never know what kind of day the other person is having.

Be wise.  Not everyone is FOR you.

Be gentle.  You’ll be vulnerable one day, too.

Prioritize well.  Years are short, even though days are long.

Don’t wish your life away.  Today is all that’s guaranteed.

Come together.  All your days are numbered.


Let’s honor the victims of 9-11 by living with awareness of what matters, today.

You are all forever etched on our hearts.





Cecil the Lion and the American Conscience

31 Jul

Cecil the Lion has become a household name, here in the United States.  As a matter of fact, I don’t recall seeing this much outrage about the killing of an animal…since Michael Vick’s dog-fighting shenanigans.  If you’ve been hiding in a cave recently, let me tell you about Cecil.  He was a beautiful and regal lion who lived in a national park in Zimbabwe, until an American hunter named Walter Palmer went to the African nation and allegedly illegally killed the lion on July 1st.

My heart was saddened.  I’ve always had a soft heart for animals, but to see this former “king of the jungle” lying lifeless next to a smiling hunter made me feel a deep sense of sadness.  Apparently, many people have felt that way, as #CecilTheLion has trended on Twitter for days.  Some have called for new regulations on hunting, and others have called for Walter Palmer to become lion food.

Even more so, I’ve been haunted for days over the lack of perspective that so many of us seem to have, as a nation.  There has been FAR more collective outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion then there has been over the Planned Parenthood fiasco…at least in the mainstream media.  How sad that the media would talk more about Cecil the Lion than the killing and dismembering of babies (in the name of medical advancement for the living)!

Now some will say that people can be concerned about both issues.  I agree, wholeheartedly!  But…they aren’t the same.  Life is all important, but humans are far more important than animals.  Humans are the only part of creation that God said in Genesis were created “in the image of God.”  My worldview demands that I value humans more than any other part of creation, because God does, too.

Some believe that all life is equal, and should be cared for in the same manner.  If that is true, then are you also outraged by the fact that Planned Parenthood has killed nearly 7,000,000 babies since 1970?  Are you troubled that 58,000,000 babies have been killed since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973?

If we’re being honest, most of us care more about Cecil the Lion, as evidenced by the blowing up of the interwebs by animal rights activists.  But, you might say: abortion is legal, and hunting endangered animals is not.  True, but is it moral to follow law based on an immoral decision?  I would say not.

So what can we do about this?  I would say that first, we need to find our “True North.”  Our lives’ compasses need to be recalibrated, and quickly.  If we don’t value the next generation more than any animal, then we are in deep trouble.  We’re a nation with blood on our hands and ice in our veins and…consciences that are seared to what is right and good.  May we seek God’s forgiveness for this human holocaust that we’ve put our approval upon.

Secondly, we need to encourage our faith communities to do more than pray and shout outside of abortion clinics.  If I were a woman in crisis (or not in crisis) and was thinking about having an abortion, I’m pretty sure the way to my heart would not be through angry talking points.  What if churches banded together with pregnancy resource centers, and funded the work that they do to put Planned Parenthood out of business?  What if women felt true love from our churches and knew that they would be loved and supported throughout their pregnancies?  I would say that many of them would not have abortions, and would find the love that God intended for them to experience.

Finally, I would encourage everyone who believes in the value of the unborn to speak up.  Raise your voice on social media and in your conversations…in love.  Push Congress to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and vote them out if they don’t.  Sometimes people become anesthetized to current events, and need a chance to process them with loved ones before they see the faultiness of their thinking.

In 2008, in my struggle to choose between Obama and McCain, I had a conversation with someone about the issue of abortion.  I remember saying to my friend that while I believed abortion to be sad, that I leaned toward being pro-choice because I didn’t believe that “morality could be legislated.”  I now believe very differently, thanks to The Center for Medical Progress’s work to expose the sickness of Planned Parenthood.  Morality IS legislated.  Our laws are all based on morality.  It is only “goodness” that can’t be legislated.



Abortion and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

30 Jul

Do you remember last summer when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral? It was incredible to see so many people pour icy-cold water on themselves in the name of finding a cure of the devastating disease, ALS. 17 million people uploaded their videos (me included), and 440 million people watched the videos a total of 10 billion times.  

That is unbelievable reach!

Today on Facebook I read this:
“Every time I see someone complaining about PP (Planned Parenthood) and harvesting stem cells I dig up their ice bucket picture and say “but you supported this…””

The truth is…ALS, according to their website, “primarily funds adult stem cell research,” which means that SOME of their research is done with either tissue of aborted babies, or maybe even from embryonic stem cells which are directly harvested from embryos created for the purpose of scientific research.
This makes me sick to my stomach. Do we really believe that it is right to kill in order to promote life? What kind of non-sensical reality have we found ourselves in?

I love what Pope John Paul II suggested, in a speech to health care workers in 1996: “Every individual man is an end in himself and can never be used as a mere means for reaching other goals…not even in the name of the well-being and progress of the community as a whole.”

So, I’m sorry that I supported the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I will not support any organization that benefits from the killing of babies. The end most certainly does not justify the means.

How to Handle Truth

21 Jul

In a culture that is seemingly inoculated to what is true, it seems that it is of vital importance for the church to re-gain its prophetic voice in a sea of voices that all say “anything goes.”  Last Sunday, I shared a message about how we should handle truth.  As people who love and follow Jesus, we need to only look to his example.

He did three things in all of his interactions with regular people, just like you and me:

1~ He was led by LOVE.

2~ He spoke the TRUTH.

3~ He shared truth with COMPASSION.

Click the link below if you’d like to hear the whole message



Neil Schori

The Gospel, Church and Domestic Violence

21 Jul

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is GOOD NEWS.  What does that mean?  What is the news?  It’s the news that we have been set free.  Free from sin and death.  Free from the tyranny of self.  Free to be the people who God created us to be.  Free to serve, and free to use our power to uplift the marginalized.  Jesus didn’t come to give you everything you want…that’s a patently false gospel.  But Jesus did come to restore the image of God in you, and he came to partner with you in offering that same life-giving gift to others.


I’ve wondered for years how this applies to the 1 in 3 women who sit in church each Sunday and are victims of domestic violence.  How does this Gospel impact their lives?  For most it doesn’t.  Why?


Because church leaders have hindered their access to Jesus.


You might say…but when did I block someone’s way to Jesus?  I’d NEVER do such a thing.


But, you did just that when you told the woman who came to you with tears and trembling that her husband beat and raped her at gun-point each day for 10 years that she must have done something to cause him to have to treat her that way.


You did just that when the woman came to you and she said she was afraid for her life, and you said you were sorry, but the Bible made it “clear” that divorce was only possible in case of sexual infidelity.


And you did just that when you told the woman suffering from PTSD that she needed to embrace the “cross that she was meant to bear” and that God would reward her for it in Heaven one day.


The Gospel IS good news for victims of domestic violence, while very sadly, the church has not been.  We must change our response, or be held accountable to God for our careless theology and our lazy and heartless, religiously-devoid-of-goodness sort of responses to the ones that Jesus came to set free.


So what can we do?  Here at Naperville Christian Church, we pledge to stand with victims of domestic violence.  What that means is that we will LISTEN to victims when they come to us, and we won’t ever try to convince victims to reconcile with their abusers.  Victims aren’t the problem; abusers are.  We also work to find temporary safe places for victims to stay that are unknown to their abusers.  Shelters can’t do it all, so we’re here to help complement their good work.  Finally, we help victims get a “head-start” in the legal system, by encouraging each of them to complete the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse, which is a ground-breaking tool designed in response to the disappearance of Stacy Peterson.


Even though we’re doing significant work to help victims, the resources needed are diverse, and sadly quite scattered.  I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with some great people whom are doing incredible work around our local community and around the world.  Here are some of them:


1.  Rise From The Ashes ~ They help women sever the legal ties that bind them to their abusers.  They also assist with the emotional trauma of DV with counseling.

2.  Restore ~ An international Christian alliance which seeks to end violence against women.

3.  SafeNight APP ~ An App that helps domestic violence and human-trafficking organizations crowd-fund hotel rooms when there’s an urgent need and no available room in DV shelters.

4.  A Cry for Justice ~ Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst.

5.  Focus Ministries ~ Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse Help for Women and Families


All of these organizations are good news for victims of domestic violence.  Will you and your church become that, too?  Please contact me at neil.schori@napervillechristian.org if you’d like to book me to speak at your church or to your organization, so that more will experience the GOOD of the Gospel.


**I added numbers 4 & 5 tonight, as I inadvertently failed to mention them and the good work they do.  Forgive my oversight.



Neil Schori




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