By Denver Beaulieu-Hains
Imagine lock-down with an abuser during this COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics show one of every three women and one of every four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. As a survivor myself, I know abuse doesn’t stop because there’s a pandemic. In fact, the stress and close quarters can be deadly.
As a 29 year-old specialist in the U.S. Army during the 90s, I found safety when my First Sergeant pulled me aside…
“Specialist, if you cut your hair one more time,” he said. “I’m going to take away your children and put you on suicide watch.”
It was a warning and he meant it. It got my attention.
Signs of abuse
“If you hadn’t done that,” he’d say. “This wouldn’t have happened.” Locking you in or out of your home, forcing you to have sex with him, and punching, pushing, kicking, biting and pulling hair are obvious signs of physical abuse [for some].
However, “I was conditioned to believe the abuse was normal. He said he loved me. His rage was misconstrued as fondness and concern–a form of endearment.
My confusion was undeniable, living with an abuser made me scared, and I was often on alert and nervous. I couldn’t think straight or make decisions. There was a pattern of behavior, a certain tension, remarkable incidents, the gifts, the make-up gestures, and then calm. I was on a merry-go-round of emotions that kept me wondering, working harder to be better, and I just walked as if on egg-shells hoping to keep the peace or to stay out of the way.
Other signs of Intimate partner abuse is that your partner bullies, threatens and/or tries to control you.
Money is one of those tools that worked on me for a little while. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time. I was an Army Specialist [E-4] and my salary paid childcare only. I was making a measly [term used by the attorney’s office during the divorce], $19,000 a year back then. It wasn’t that I wasn’t working or trying, instead, he made more than I, and let me know it. He used finances to keep me in check and under his control.
“The only reason you have anything at all is because of me,” he said. “Your own mother doesn’t even want you. Where can you go?”
I was alienated from family and friends. I felt alone and ashamed. Desperate to leave, I finally left with nothing and never turned back.
Experts say, it takes about seven incidents before a victim attempts to leave. I had had enough.
Get help, Ask questions
The Army takes care of its own, and I’m still here as living proof that the process, procedures and programs work.
My chain-of-command was the start to getting help. They advocated for me when I didn’t have the words or understanding for myself. The day he brought his weapon home and when the Military Police knocked on my door to take him away, my life changed. I was compassionately reassigned and my career continued. I got a fresh start.
The financial counselor at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan’s Army Community Services (ACS) helped me budget for my relocation. I don’t remember if I required a loan – but if money is an objection to peace of mind, don’t forget to ask your unit chaplain or ACS for help. They can point you in the right direction.
Finally, what did my “high-and-tight hair have to do with this? It was the one indication that something was not quite right. “Top [First Sergeant]” noticed and helped me to change my life.
“I’ll never have to worry about you again,” my counselor said. “You are wearing the uniform now. You will be O.K.” He was right. Having come full-circle, I’m a member of the staff here now. I’m of many professionals who help provide a safe environment at Camp Casey, Yongsan, and K-16 in South Korea.
I don’t want anyone to be afraid or to fear for themselves or their children. Victim Advocates are available to provide unrestricted and restricted reporting options. Please call the 24/7 Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Hotline at 153 or in Area I and II call 722-3110; after hours call 010-7462-9884.
Imagine how it feels to be safe. I pass the same ACS, and the old haunts that led me to safety and well-being. Let’s realize a community free of domestic violence together. Imagine that and get help!
(This is the first article of USAG Yongsan-Casey's Healthy-Choice Options series. This series encourages members of the community to be happy and healthy.)
Editor's note: We want to hear from you! If there is a concern write us https://www.facebook.com/usagyongsan call DSN: (315) 722-4549 or 82+ 010-8977-7060.