I read a blogpost written by Onna LeBeau for One Billion Rising and was so moved by the power and authenticity of her voice as she shared about her personal triumph over domestic abuse that I invited her to write a blog post for the Million Mamas Movement blog. As I listened daily to women around the world express their shock and outrage by what they perceived as acceptance of a public display of misogyny, verbal abuse, and disrespect of women by President-elect, Donald Trump during his campaign, I wanted to share her story. I am thrilled that she is a contributor to the Million Mamas Movement blog. Onna has currently been at Standing Rock camp in Standing Rock, North Dakota and will share about her experiences there.
This is Onna’s story of Hope and Renewal.
“Hope /hÕp/ noun –
1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
2. a feeling of trust. Verb – 1. want something to happen or be the case.“
During a recent discussion with a friend, I mentioned the need for a financial plan and tools to assist victims of domestic abuse. The “tools” would give the victims the ability to plan for a financial goal while trying to get out of an abusive situation.
They asked me how this was even possible, how can an abuse victim even begin to think about a personal financial plan while under the control of their abuser. That one question put me into deep thought and I asked myself over and over, “how is it possible?” How does one get access to money in order to save for the future and keep it a secret from the person controlling them? How does a victim of domestic abuse actually do it? My only answer is simply but profoundly “they have to.” They simply have to find the will to find a better way of living. They have to do whatever it takes to get away from their abuser otherwise life will remain the same and the cycle of abuse will continue, in some awful cases it’s a matter of life or death.
Now I never thought of myself as a strong individual when I was young and in my abusive relationship, I never imagined my life to turn out as it has today. What I did know was I wanted to live a different way of life. I wanted my boys to live in a safer environment. I wanted to get my education so I could live in a nice place with a couch and a comfortable bed. I wanted a reliable car and I wanted to love and be loved the way I knew I deserved. I constantly count myself lucky because I had a support system in my era of abuse.
They didn’t know they were my support system but they were. I had three incredibly intelligent men in my life. Two were my instructors in undergraduate college when I was allowed to go to school for a couple of semesters while married to my first husband. One instructor was my advisor, the other was a business law instructor and someone I did clerical work for in my free time. Both would talk to me and tell me about my potential, they saw something in me I didn’t. One would tell me to major in International Business, I couldn’t see myself getting out of the small college town we were in let alone work internationally. The other would tell me to become a paralegal and then an attorney and I couldn’t fathom how I would even get into law school let alone finish. They would make me speak in class and hold me accountable for my work. They expected the best out of me and pushed me to become the best student I could be. I didn’t graduate with honors but my last two years of my undergraduate degree I did carry a 3.5 gpa for those semesters. These two built me up and were able to show me I could find success. I think they suspected my ex-husband was abusive but they never asked and I never told them. I did see my business law instructor last year and thanked him for saving my life. I told him what he and the other instructor did was to give me some hope in my future.
The third man to build me up was my second husband. We became friends at work and after evolving into man and wife, I can honestly say he is my best friend. Our 23 year relationship hasn’t been all peaches and cream but it has been a constant evolution into us, just as I have been a constant evolution into me. In our 23 years together he encouraged me to try new things; he would introduce me to new places and things. Of course he would also compliment me in every way. He, too, saved me from what could have become horrific future by believing in me and by being patient with my neurosis and mindset after my traumatic life.
Where does one find not only a support system but a trustworthy support system?
People these days don’t want drama or to be involved. Then again there are people around who are trustworthy: A close friend, a relative, a teacher, a co-worker. I, myself, had a huge inability to trust people and although I had friends who would help me if I needed them, I rarely asked for help. Back in the era of my abuse, it was almost taboo to discuss domestic abuse. I married him so I had to take it, and during times when I would behave defiantly by going out with friends without permission, or I would break curfew, formally known as “pumpkin hour,” I knew I was going to have to pay consequences. But I accepted my punishment and behaved as “expected” the following day.
Today there are advocates all around. There are support groups and organizations who are willing to help. The road to freedom isn’t easy, this I know. There are social service programs available but a person needs a physical address. There are rules and regulations and sometimes it may seem impossible but hope has to be out there and sometimes it may be the only thing available.
We hear in the news and through a variety of outlets about survivors and their story about how they found freedom to the success they are achieving today. We say they are stronger than us or they had opportunities we don’t have access to, that we are willing to accept our reason for being. Albeit in rural areas the availability of resources are diminished and escape to freedom is challenging, but the sense of hope and the will to get out will find a way – it has to.
It all starts with a decision, the decision to get away from the abuser for good. Then the steps to the plan of how to reach freedom. Everyone’s plan has to fit what is within their capability. The bottom line to safety could be through a friend, a relative or someone the abuser is unaware of who is able to help the victim to safety.
A larger thought out plan could include saving money for bus tickets to a shelter in another state, or to some place the abuser will never look. Even bigger plans take patience and time, time to save money in a hidden account so a victim can move out and create a new home by renting an apartment or house in a safe neighborhood. Of course, there are other legalities to think about such as child custody etc. Seeking advice from domestic abuse counselors and shelters will have the safest and best legal advice to follow but it all starts with the decision to get away from the abuser.
As a survivor of domestic abuse, I can say there were times when I felt utterly alone and I felt as if there was never going to be a chance to get away. I had children and I had a job. I was scared and embarrassed. I also had to make the decision alone but I had to make it for me and my boys. Once I saved the money to rent an apartment and found an affordable attorney, I felt safer in my two door apartment. I may have adapted to living in survival mode and in a state of paranoia but it didn’t last forever.
To my friend who put me into deep thought, I don’t have a guaranteed answer to your question but what I do have is a prayer full of hope for victims, I have a will which has carried me through the harshest of times and I continue to have my support system full of family, sisters, neighbors, coworkers, and my church family.
Onna LeBeau is a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and currently resides in South Dakota in the land of the Lakota.
Contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
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