#DVAM22 promotes healthy relationships Survivor: leaders, resources help break the cycle

By Denver Beaulieu-HainsOctober 24, 2022

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story appeared on Army.mil, “Survivor's story: Army programs, processes work,” Oct. 19, 2021. (https://www.army.mil/article/239657/survivors_story_army_programs_processes_work)

Imagine lock-down with an abuser during the COVID-19 pandemic, a catastrophic event when there is a significant loss or hardship over time, or the toll of events year after year.

Statistics show one of every three women and one of every four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

Do you know the presence of a weapon during a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by an estimated 500%. Do you know domestic violence accounts for 15 % of all violent crime?

As a survivor, I know that stress and close quarters can be deadly. During traumatic times and hardship, the lack of control and uncertainty may fuel anger and cause an increase of violence in the home.

As a 29-year-old U.S. Army specialist in the U.S. Army during the 1990s, 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.”

First Sergeant, or Top as I called him, had reacted to my need for control when it seemed my life was falling apart. The abuse had become a normal part of my daily life. The stress of deployment and the dual-military stresses of duty and responsibility had taken their toll. I was a Soldier, and was raising three children simultaneously with all the stress that goes with living in an unsafe, violent and scary environment. I eventually left, and that had its own stressors.

Cutting my hair was the beginning of my change. My leader had gotten to know me. He knew something was wrong. His comment was shocking, not what I wanted to hear, but I was in a safe space and the gentle threat (and he meant it) helped me be honest and gave me the opportunity to change my circumstance. With his help and the help of my supervisor, I wasn't going to take it anymore. I got a fresh start at a new duty station.

Sometimes Service Members don't report domestic violence because of the stigma. Rape, stalking, loss of income, work due to injuries and hospitalization and vulnerabilities to sexually transmitted diseases and homicide are some of the secondary effects of domestic violence.

As a community, there is something we can do about it. Let's not be silent witnesses to abuse. Let's be committed to exploring the resources available to us on and off base.

It took a team to save my life and change the course of my and my children's life.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. No one has to suffer! If you or someone you know needs help, please contact your chain of command, ACS or your local domestic abuse hotline.

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. Love, kindness and support were confused as rage, control and cruelty took its place. I learned to fear him, my love and respect faded as I worked to empower myself and buried myself in my work. I found strength in learning to be the best Soldier I could be. I became self-sufficient on my own until I could leave.

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 eggshells hoping to keep the peace or to stay out of the way.

Other signs of intimate partner abuse are that your partner bullies, threatens and/or tries to control you.

Money is one of those tools that worked on me for a 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 did 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?”

He alienated me 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 enough. Another incident could have been my last.

Get help, Ask questions.

My time serving my country was the best time of my life. I survived. I’m still here as living proof that the process, procedures and programs work. It took courage to ask for help. I’m glad I got help.

My command team was the start to getting a fresh start. They advocated for me when I didn’t have the words or understanding for myself. Then the day he brought his weapon home and the Military Police knocked on my door to take him away, my life changed. Compassionately reassigned, my career continued at a new location with a fresh start.

A financial counselor at 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. Each service has their own support service. If you need help inquire.

The doctors and other medical personnel helped me understand my resources and documented events to help me move forward in the new life that I was creating for myself and my family.

Finally, what did my new “high-and-tight hair have to do with this? It was the one indication that something was not quite right. My advocate, Top noticed, and helped me to change my life.

Having come full-circle, my children and I are safe. It’s been many years now, and we are happy, healthy, resilient and equipped to take on life's challenges. I can only thank the care providers for not giving up on me, providing sound advice and giving me the help I needed when I needed it.

There's no doubt that the processes work. I'm a survivor, and I'm much better for it. I don’t want anyone to be afraid or to fear for themselves or their children. Victim Advocates are available at installations to provide unrestricted and restricted reporting options when needed.

I used to think love hurts. It doesn't. Abuse doesn't discriminate by age, sex, color or creed. When someone hurts you, it's not love.

If there's one piece of advice, I'd say. Get help! Get help now. My second piece of advice is that leaders talk to their Soldiers and team members.

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. Imagine how it feels to be safe. Let’s realize a community free of domestic violence together. Imagine that and get help!

Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or SMS: Text Start to 88788



Date Taken:10.05.2022Date Posted:10.05.2022 14:04Story ID:430773Location:FORT DETRICK, MD, US  Web Views:27Downloads:0PUBLIC DOMAIN  This work, #DVAM22 promotes healthy relationships Survivor: leaders, resources help break the cycle, by Denver Beaulieu-Hains, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.




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Domestic Violence Awareness Month