I`ve been free from my abuser since 2012, since he went to jail for attempting to murder my father and me by shooting us in front of my then 4-year-old son. But you see, before the shooting, while I was married to him (3 years) and for a year and a half after separating from him, I was not free. I was his prisoner.
I think about what my life was like being his wife, and I keep landing on isolation. Over the course of the marriage, he increasingly pulled me away from my friends and family. He controlled my emails and my social media accounts. He manipulated me in ways I didn`t even realize. A prime example was how he worked to chip away my co-parenting relationship with my older son`s father, which had been successful before he entered the picture. He insisted on reading email communications and even took over responses sometimes. He wouldn`t
let me be on Facebook for a long time, claiming it would lead to infidelity; no matter how much reassurance I gave, he refused. He talked negatively about my friends, saying they were using meand weren`t good people. He would create drama in front of my parents and family members, always to bring attention back to himself. He moved us to an army base in Northern Virginia, where I knew no one, where I was under his thumb.
So I think about these things, about how under lock and key I was, and then I consider what people in abusive relationships are going through right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the U.S. are ordering citizens to stay at home and only leave for essential reasons ? with the threat of fines for not following the orders. Of course, this is necessary to flatten the curve and slow the spreading of this deadly virus.
But this is also a dream come true for abusers.
Their partners and children are stuck at home with them, under full control. Abusers can take advantage of this situation ? withholding information, misleading or outright lying about the pandemic, controlling and forbidding communication with loved ones, denying access to finances and transportation, among many other harmful tactics. There`s also the ?walking on eggshells? that absolutely increases when at home full-time, around the clock with an abuser. You never know what you might do or say to set them off, and in close quarters, this is what I`ve been calling a ?powder keg.? Who knows when they will explode? And when isolated, who can be there to help?
I don`t know what the answer is. I wish I did. I wish I could go into abusive homes and release the partners and children who are terrified, who are facing a reality that the chances of safely escaping are even less now. All I can do, as one person, is share my story and my concern for those who are in the most danger at this time. I`m lucky to be free and alive, but I know there are too many out there now who are living in minute-to-minute fear.
To all of us while we are home, if you hear yelling or see an argument happening outside, please don`t look the other way. Dial 911. You might save someone`s life.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or visit their website at thehotline.org.
Rewind 10 years.
For many years I described my life as living in a horror film. It was kinda like watching from the outside in disbelief, this was my life, how did I get here? It's the movie scene where you are constantly running and there is nowhere to hide. And everywhere you went danger lurked around the corner.
The many nights that I suddenly awake
In terror wondering, if I am ok
checking to see if I locked the doors.
Stuck, a prisoner of my own life.
One day finally the words that changed my life
so simple, yet why hadn't I thought of this before?
I was to blinded by the hurt and shame.
Blame; I blamed myself...
Those are the words I needed to hear.
Fast forward 6 years
'Believe in yourself'
I had this surreal moment the other day
as I look at the reflection in the glass wall
I see the outline of myself;
I see the beautiful city skyline..
The day deceives us;
the sun is shining and it is the coldest day of the year.
Life goes on as we carry on in this world that at times decipere us.
'Believe in yourself'
I believe becoming pregnant so early in the relationship left me feeling like no one other than he and I understood the pain I was going through.
I have found through my training as a Domestic Violence Responder and through my many conversations with victims at a Safe House or through interviews with survivors that reproductive coercion was so prevalent in abusive relationships and very rarely discussed. The bond the abuser creates with his victim through getting her pregnant holds this emotional bondage over her. What I found was most victims got pregnant, were forced to terminate their pregnancy, but then got pregnant very soon after and refused the second time and would proceed to have the baby. At which point all abuses especially financial increased.
I decided to talk about this very fragile topic because I had to go through intense therapy including EMDR to even just begin my healing. I want to make sure no one suffers internally as I did. You are not alone.
In November 2012, after over a year of trying to divorce and get away from him, my abusive ex-husband ambushed my father and me at my apartment and shot us each. In front of our son, who was only 4 years old at the time. Thankfully we all lived, and I have been sharing our story ever since - to save lives.
In this blog, I will talk about two key parts of what happened to me: gun violence and system failure.
When I left my abuser, I was granted a temporary restraining order against him. Under Florida law, once he was served, law enforcement could seize the firearms in our home. They did. But they also informed us of a giant loophole: it was only a TRO, and he could go out and buy a gun legally the next day. He did buy the 9mm Beretta that he used to try to kill us legally.
The justice system could have prevented this tragedy, but didn?t.
Our family court judge refused to make the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) a permanent one - despite my request for one every time we went in front of him. My ex was violating the TRO, but the judge would not make it permanent, saying that we would have to figure out a way to be civil and co-parent our son. Clearly the man had zero knowledge or training on domestic violence dynamics - mothers cannot co-parent with their abusive ex-partners. It isn''t possible. In fact, it''s dangerous for women and children.
I experienced this lack of knowledge by all aspects of the legal system. From judges, to lawyers, to Child Protective Services agents, to guardians ad litem, to even his military command. All seemed to be suspicious of me and not believe how lethal my ex actually was. Time and again he was given the benefit of the doubt and chance after chance, and all I wanted was to keep my son and I safe. It wasn''t until he actually shot us that all the people in these positions swung into action. I almost had to die to be taken seriously. Our case is rare: my ex was found guilty at the criminal trial and sentenced to 60 years, no chance of parole.
But why did it take attempted murder for people in positions to help us to notice and care? It comes down to misogyny, and the way women are treated in these situations is just as abusive as that which we endured by our abusers. It has to change. And that's why I'll never stop talking about it.
Check out my book, Killing Kate, where I have told every detail of this story.
There was no physical violence leading up to his failed attempt to murder me with an axe, and the subsequent punishment-murder of my son. There were many red flags that became increasingly harder to dismiss (as we do) and I knew it was time to leave. I needed a safety plan, but I didn't even realize I was in an "abusive" situation. I knew something bad was going to happen but would have never predicted murder. In this blog, I will share some of those red flags with you.
It’s been 10 years, tens of thousands of hours of therapy for my kids and I, four surgeries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs since my husband shot me and took his life in front of our kids.
I have slowly come to realize over this time there is no going home, no going back to my life and who I was. Every single aspect of my life has been affected including an entirely new career as a domestic violence advocate, trainer and speaker. My own experience made me obsessed with how to keep what happened to me this from happening to other women and children.
While in high school, I was a victim of dating-related domestic violence and repeated homicide attempts but was denied protective services after not meeting criteria for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order. Later, while a Senior in college, I was physically assaulted, raped, and sodomized by a stranger on campus. I graduated five months after the attack earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Specialized Psychology with a Mental Health Concentration. I later completed my Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.
I was diagnosed with a form of brain damage as a result of repeated head trauma, resulting in chronic migraines. I rarely experience relief from pain, an exception being for a brief period following speaking engagements. I find peace through speaking with incarcerated individuals at the County, State, and Federal levels.
I didn't have a voice before filming Finding Jenn's Voice. For almost two years I was in an unhealthy relationship that was emotionally and physically abusive. When I tried to leave, he tried to kill me. After I left I made a commitment to myself: that I would never be in an unhealthy relationship again and I would do anything to heal from my past experiences.
I decided I wasn't going to let anything get in my way: not a momentary feeling of doubt, not my own self defeating thoughts, and not the man who once claimed to love me. I refused to be defeated by what happened to me. And I refused to believe that I was alone. Sharing my story freed me to take the steps I needed to be able to heal. And almost synchronistically, as soon as I was ready to share my story, the opportunity to contribute to being a voice for Jennifer Snyder in this documentary presented itself.
I didn't have a voice before filming Finding Jenn's Voice. I didn't know my story. But the empowering weekend of filming Finding Jenn's Voice, woke something up in me. Here's a blog I wrote a few days after we filmed the documentary:
'I was in an abusive relationship for almost two years. I have not spoken up openly about this for the fear of being blamed, for fear of people thinking it makes me a different person, and for fear of judgment. I left a little more than a year ago, and in the process of leaving, my abuser almost took my life.
But today I say no more. I will not hide in silence, because the silence is what perpetuates the epidemic. He did this to me, I have no shame. I do not fear the few who will say ‘she should have just left’ or ‘why didn’t she leave’ (code for: It’s her fault he abused her). To those people my reply is this: 75% of intimate partner homicides are committed after she has already left. Leaving is the most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship.
Myself and ten of the strongest and most courageous women I have met filmed footage for a documentary film to give a voice to a wonderful woman, Jennifer Snyder. This woman had a beautiful soul. Her precious life was taken from her by a man who was supposed to love her. She was pregnant. Jenn did not deserve to have her life taken. She will never have the chance to speak out. So today, I speak out in the name of Jenn Snyder.'
Did you know that one of the the leading causes of death during pregnancy is homicide? Did you know that one of the the leading causes of death during pregnancy is homicide? This crime is preventable and there are numerous red flags. Today and every day, I vow to take a stand against domestic violence and speak up on behalf of those who are no longer with us. Jenn, you are forever our soul sister.
Since I was a young girl I have said “When I grow up I am going to be just like Mulan and Pocahontas. I am going to stand up in the name of doing the right thing and helping those in need. I am going to write my story.” So I tell you now – I am dedicating my life to standing up for victims, I am going to write books and a blog, I will create a dance production, I am going to stand up to the criminal justice system that has served so many injustices. I will fight for what’s right.
I will no longer hide in silence. Silence creates an epidemic. My name is Lisa. I am a survivor and today I thrive. I am not ashamed. Here’s to saying no more to violence and male entitlement.
Thank you to Tracy, my soul sisters, and the newest additions to my family for helping me to find my voice. I will always remember how grateful I am for this empowering weekend.
Following my abusive relationship, something ignited a passion in me to heal, learn and grow. Some of the things I have deeply studied and would love to share with you in this blog are:
Dynamics and red flags of abusive relationshipsNarcissistic and Anti-Social Personality DisordersThriving after abuse, including:Self-loveInner peaceJoyI am honored to share what I learned on my journey so that others can learn from my experiences and know that they are not alone. Because of my deep healing after my abusive relationship, I know that I will never be in an abusive relationship; I have proven that to myself time and time again since that relationship ended. Not only will I never be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship again, but I am thriving and I truly feel like my experience of life couldn''t get any better. You don''t have to ever be in an abusive relationship again either. Not only that, but you too can thrive.
And in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, 'Today I come as one. But I stand as 10,000.'
I speak for all the voices that can't- I speak for Jennifer Snyder.
For daily inspirational posts you can follow me at: