There are No Rules in Domestic Violence – My Story

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 I was asked to speak today to some of our state senators and representatives.   Here are my remarks:

I am a survivor and former victim of Domestic Violence.

I have been mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically and financially abused by my ex wife.  I have been bitten, hit, kicked, cut, and bruised.

There is a lie in our society that men cannot be victims of abuse and that if a woman abuses a man the man is somehow weak, or they did something to provoke her and deserve it.

There are no rules in domestic violence.  It is not conditional based upon gender or age.   It is not specific to your level of education, race, income, religion or social status.  It is a plague that is destroying families and our children and we must act to put an end to this scourge.  Abusers will blame the abused for making them into the abusers they are.  This is part of the manipulation process abusers use.  Sadly, many of us fall victim to this lie and believe it.

If we falsely believe that domestic violence will go away by ignoring it, or if we fall victim to the many lies about this plague we are abandoning our children and grandchildren to continue perpetually down this evil path in our society.

Domestic Violence impacts every one of us in this room.  Whether or not it is public knowledge or anyone outside the victims immediate family knows about it, such as in my case, we all know someone who lives this hell.  It could be your daughter, your son, father, mother, grandchild, or neighbor.  It could be a leader in your church or a teacher at school or your coworker and friend.  Most victims are silent, looking for help and not knowing where to turn.

In Utah we are surrounded by many who by outward appearances have great and amazing families.  From an outward perspective, I had it all, a great family, a great wife, a great job, a beautiful home and great kids.  No one ever suspected the hell I and my children were living as a result of her abuse.

Many have asked me afterwards why if things were so bad would I stay in the relationship for so long.  First and foremost I will tell you that I love my children and am a deeply devoted father.  I worried for their safety and well being if I left.

Remember I had been told by the many police officers and those in the legal profession that I turned to for help, that a man cannot be a victim of domestic violence and if it is happening then he provoked her to it.  Utah has a terrible history in family law, one that quite frankly we should all hang our heads in shame over and that is the blind obedience of the judges to mothers and custody.  This was the single largest issue that kept me in this abusive relationship.  I didn’t want my children to suffer without my protection for them.

In the end, like most abusers, she left when she found someone new.  My relief at this being over was minimized as the courts gave custody to her.  My biggest fear in leaving came true.

My other primary reason for staying is abuse doesn’t always start off being physical.  Abusers manipulate and make the abused feel worthless and that they don’t deserve anything better and that they deserve what they are getting.  This lie held me hostage for years.

It was upon finally being freed from this abuse that I began to know about the resources in the community like the Domestic Violence shelters and what they do.

I have spent countless hours volunteering to help with anything the local shelter was in need of, from painting, to moving furniture, to fixing toilet seats and washing machines.  I have spent the time to know and understand what they do and why they do it.    While a handful of the shelters will take in men, and shelter them from abusers, there are many that do not primarily due to funding issues.  I don’t believe I would have sought shelter as financially I was in the position to leave if I needed.

What I wish with all of my heart and that would have saved me and saved my children from witnessing the abuse is the knowledge available through the community outreach efforts of the shelters.  The education and resources they provide that would have given me direction and support were not known to me.  I was unaware that anyone could help my children and I during this nightmare we were living.

The South Valley Sanctuary currently operates a community outreach center in West Jordan to assist those in need of resources and support prior to the need to seek shelter.  We need more of this in our communities.  We need to ensure that our children are protected and that the resources are given to those making a difference on the front line of this plague everyday!

The domestic violence shelters need your support to continue to operate and not only provide the shelter from the violence, but the ongoing community outreach, training and resources to those in need prior to the need to flee. It is far less expensive to make certain that resources are available to those in need than it is to prosecute and house the perpetrator and bury the victims when the violence turns deadly.

We cannot end the violence if we are merely reactionary.  We must provide the resources in addition to just shelter that many in this community are in dire need.

As you review the funding this year, I hope that my story resonates with you and opens your eyes to the need for additional resources that will help these shelters continue to provide safety as well as resources to your daughters and sons experiencing violence at home to get the help that they need, before your need to plan their funeral.

There is No Tomorrow – A Fathers Heartache Part 12

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Oh how I have missed having my children with me.  These past couple of weeks without being able to see them due to the Thanksgiving holiday was difficult for us.  It is frustrating to think anyone would keep their child away from a parent, yet that is the unfortunate reality that my children and I face.  It was 14 days since my last 4 hour visit, and I only had 4 hours to spend with them last night, 4 hours to last us another week.

These nights are about what the kids want to do.  Interestingly enough they all wanted to go spend some time in our home.  My wife was working late, so it was the 4 of us at home.  Alexa and Londyn wanted to play together as they missed each other so much.  The girls quickly took off to the bedrooms to laugh and giggle, followed much later my a game of hide and seek with all of them.  My son Bridger wanted to shoot on his nerf hoop in his room, so we shot around for a little while, while our baby Bella chased everyone in the house in her walker.

The house was full of noise and laughter.  A far cry from the normal silence we face when the oldest 3 are away with the other parent.  I hunger for those moments of sweet music as the children laugh and play together.  My home is meant to have the sound of little feet as they pitter patter across the hardwood, the giggles and the joy that comes from them when they are together.    I treasure these moments in time as they are fleeting for us.  Our children are growing so fast and these few opportunities go by so fast as I try to hold onto them and stay in the moment.

As our night was coming to an end last night, Bridger asked me about this blog.  I suggested he write a story and draw a picture for it that we could post.   He loves to write and draw, yet thinks he isn’t very good at it.  As the eternal optimist and wanting to encourage him to chase his dreams, i posted his story last night to show him that people would read it and like it.   Thank you for proving me right.

https://jisbell22.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/tim-and-his-monster-by-my-11-year-old-son-bridger

I was once told by someone dear to me, whom is married to his first wife and has raised their kids in a traditional family that I spend more one on one time with my kids than they do.  This saddened me to think that could even be possible.  I yearn for time with my children and live for these moments when I get to see them.  I have spent my life wanting to be a great father and do the best I can with very limited opportunity.  I truly live for these moments.

Over the years as I have pondered these comments, I wonder if the reason that was said was due to the fact that I give my children the attention they need when I have them with me.  We pray, we play, we cry, we laugh and we love one another and spending time together,  Maybe its because we don’t get the time we would otherwise have that we spend every possible minute together.  Maybe others take for granted that time that we do not as a result of our limited time together.  Maye our time together becomes more important because we don’t have tomorrow to ride bikes, play and laugh.  We can’t procrastinate the time we spend together as a family whereas others might put things off because they can where we can’t.  Maybe by putting things off, they never get to it?  I have never fully understood his words, nor how it is even possible.  I can only guess.   I have learned over the years to always find joy in the journey.

SMALL MOMENTS AND THE GRANDEST OF MEMORIES – A Fathers Heartache part 8

I finally had the most wonderful and  AMAZING time with my children on Halloween.   I have waited 8 years for this moment to come, when Halloween would fall on my day for a visit.  In years past I would attend … Continue reading

A NEW DAWN

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Halloween: a day where people dress up in costume to be someone they are not, or maybe to show the world who they really are or long to be.  As I spent the drive to work this morning pondering this phenomenon, my mind raced to thoughts of who I am.

The expectations on me as a child and young man were great, and I often felt overwhelmed as a result of them.  I remember many times being told by my family, teachers, religious leaders, and neighbors that I would do great things in life. I expected this of myself as I had heard this my entire life.  As I graduated from High School and then left to serve a mission for my church, I felt the overwhelming weight of the world on my shoulders as these expectations had hit a fever pitch.

There is nothing quite like it in the world of letting down those whose expectations are so incredibly high.  Through personal choices, circumstances beyond my control and the choices of others my life has been quite different from what everyone else envisioned for me, and who and what I was to become.  I find it amazing how people will place incredibly high expectations on another persons life and then abandon them in times of need, despair and discouragement.  It has taken me a lifetime of dealing with the disappointments of others because my life had not turned out how they wanted it to and the accompanying reactions that went with it.

So that brings me back to who I am now.  I am a son of God.  I am deeply in love with my beloved Wife, I absolutely adore my children. I am a devoted husband, father, brother, son, uncle, cousin. I have been very successful in my careers and I do my best to serve others and help my community. I am extremely happy with every aspect of my life, for which I have control over.  I feel confident that I can overcome anything in life, because my life,  the life that I have been given that upset so many other people along the way for letting them down, has created strength in me, an inner peace,  that not many understand, nor recognize.  It is a quiet strength within me, a certain and unshakeable knowledge in who I am, and what my deep potential in life is.  This potential has nothing to do with what others desire, it has everything to do with what my Heavenly Father desires.

There were many discouraging, hurtful and frustrating challenges that I faced with others opinions of who and what I should be and what my life should be.   It was upon overcoming the obstacles that they placed in front of me that I was able rid myself of the chains they placed upon me and become more than they could ever have imagined.

This certain and complete knowledge provides untold strength that resonates deep within my soul, strength I know that will keep my feet firmly planted on solid ground, regardless of what life may bring.

I have learned, just as every sunset brings us closer to a new dawn, every challenge overcome brings us closer to the Son.

THE DAILY HEARTACHE – A Fathers Heartache part 5

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The hole in my heart never leaves.  I feel its presence with each heartbeat.  I feel the pain with each breath I take.

There isn’t a single day when my heart doesn’t ache from missing my children.  Each morning as I drive to work my thoughts are on them.  I wonder what outfit they wore to school.  I wonder how they did on yesterdays test.  I wonder how they slept.  I worry that they didn’t eat breakfast. I wonder how practice went, how Londyn is doing with her cheer classes and how football is going for Bridger.

These thoughts race through my mind complicated by the lack of communication I am able to have with them.  Sometimes they will sneak me a text message from their ipod when their mom isn’t looking just to say I love you dad!  I live for those precious little messages and moments in life when they aren’t with me.  While I drive, my mind stays focused on them, I fight the urge to cry as I long to see them, to hear their voices and talk with them, to see their smiles and feel their hugs.

I yearn for the time when my children can spend time with me without the shadow of the issues we are forced to deal with from others.  I see the sorrow in their own eyes with each goodbye, as they too know that the communication and contact will be vacant from their lives until our next visit.  I know all too well the pain that I feel daily, I see that same pain in my children’s precious tender hearts with each hug and kiss goodbye.  We hold on just a little longer and little tighter each time we part.

I worry what this does to my children.  I get angry that someone would hurt their children in this manner.  I get angry that by her choices to leave our family and run away with another man that my dear children are forced to suffer and hurt.  My heart explodes in sorrow each time I think about the life that has been forced upon them by her actions.

Then I take a deep breath and slowly let it out.  I regain my composure and put on my happy face for the day.  Time to work.  I take a few moments to look at the blessings I do have in my life.  I have amazing children, including sweet Alexa,  whom I love deeply and they love me.  I have the most wonderful and amazing wife possible, who’s unquestionable love and devotion to our family and myself provides deep rooted anchors in my soul for me to weather the heartache.  I have a beautiful, kind loving mother who never fails me and 5 brothers who will always be there.

I realize daily that I have been surrounded by loved ones to strengthen me so that I in turn can be strong for my dear children.  I only pray that they can borrow my strength so that their tender little hearts aren’t shattered.

BRIDGERS COURAGE – A Fathers Heartache part 4

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My son is devoted to his football team.  He loves playing football, he even turned down a trip to Disneyland with me so he wouldn’t miss a practice, he wouldn’t let his team down.  He has spent the past 3 1/2 years playing quarterback and loves to be in the middle of all the action.  His team took 2nd place two years ago and are the defending champions from last year.  Sports have helped keep my dear boy on stable ground during all the tumult of his short little life.  In spite of all his mothers moves, we have been able to keep him on the same teams throughout these years which has allowed him to develop some deep friendships on the team, many of the boys play on the same competitive football, basketball and lacrosse teams.

One week ago today after practice Bridger called me, which is extremely rare and NEVER happens so I knew something was up. I could hear the sorrow in his voice as he fought back the emotion coming from his broken heart.  I quietly listened to my son through his cracking voice as he told me that the coaches had decided to bench him because he missed a block in Saturdays game.  Immediately my mind raced back to Saturdays game and I could recall the block he missed, I couldn’t forget it as I vividly remember the assistant coaches tirade directed toward my son from the sidelines.  As a parent, it is often difficult to hold my tongue when a coach goes off on the 11 year old boys.  I choose instead to discuss privately with the coaches that my opinion is that the yelling is overboard and that they can be more effective and get better play from the boys with a calm criticism instead of the ranting and raving.

My heart ached for my son.  I knew how deeply important this is to him.  I know all too well that this is what has helped my son cope with the heartaches he feels and the sorrow at not being able to see me when he wants.  Sports, especially football have been a lifeline for him, he has devoted himself to his team and being there for them.  His example of commitment and what that includes has been inspiring to me.  His focus and dedication to practice and game time has been exemplar.  My immediate thought as a loving father was how can they do this to him for one play?  Wisely I kept my tongue and asked first how he was doing with the change.  His voice broke now, with tears as he told me he understood and wanted what was best for his team.

Now it was my turn to fight back the emotion and the tears as my heart broke for my son.  I cleared my throat and asked him what now.  He informed me that the coaches said he could play on special teams and fill in at safety.  I asked him who the new quarterback was going to be and if he would still be the backup.  He quietly told me that it was the coaches son who would take his place and that he wouldn’t even be backing him up.  Never in my life had I had to deal with the politics of little league sports in this manner.  How can I explain to my son that it is ok that after 3 1/2 years in his position and being very successful in it that he was now taken out so that the coaches son, who had never even taken a snap could be the star player?

Then as I was fighting the building frustration at the incredulous politics of little league football, my son said, “it’s OK dad, it will be best for the team.  i just want our team to do well.”  My son reinforced in me at that moment that all the long conversations over the years we had shared, about being a leader, about teamwork, about lifting those around you and making them better, about how leaders lead from example, that these conversations had sunk in.  My boy understood more about life, more about people, more about leadership, more about compassion than most adults do.

Sadly, the call had to end as I could hear his mother telling him he had to get off the phone now.  I expressed my deep love and admiration for my boy as he quietly whispered, “I love you Dad” as he hung up the phone.

My heart was breaking for more reasons than my sons sorrow.  It was full of love and gratitude with the knowledge that although our time is extremely limited and our moments to talk rare, my son had learned the important things in life that I have tried so hard to teach him.  My efforts have not been in vain and those small moments of time when we are together have impacted my sons life.  I had made a difference in his life that I never thought possible given the circumstances we were forced into.  I ached to hold my son in my arms and comfort him, yet I knew he could feel my arms around him without me being next to him to hold him.

Saturdays game came. The team suffered their worst loss of the year.  I watched him as he awkwardly paced the sidelines while his offensive teammates were on the field.  I watched as he cheered for his friends and congratulated the new quarterback when he made a good play, i could see his heartache and longing to be in the game written in his eyes, yet he hid that from his team. I took tremendous pride as I watched as my son stepped in on defense and prevented 2 touchdowns. Yet during all this, he made a contribution to his team that I am not certain even the other boys realize,  my son showed by tremendous courage and true leadership on Saturday. Although he wasn’t the one leading the offense, he led the team from the sidelines with his quiet courage and strength as he accepted willingly the decisions others had made, while cheering on his teammates in a futile loss.  My son has learned that choices of others impact everyone, even his own.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN – The Personal Perspective

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We have all heard the mantra “No Pain, No Gain”.  We see this in the local gym and is referred to most often in terms of exercise and physical fitness.   This too applies to personal growth.

I have often stated that I would never change anything in my life because the struggles I have personally experienced have made me the man that I am today.  I look back over my challenges and I can see clearly the growth in personal strength, an increase in my compassion, understanding and wisdom that could never have been developed within me without the struggles of life.  Just as in the gym, with pain comes gain.   The greater the pain, the greater the opportunity for gain.

Our lives are filled with wonder, opportunities and joys.  Many times these treasures are overshadowed by the heartache, grief and sorrow that also come with life.  I have many family and friends whom have experienced much greater trials and obstacles than my own.  As I have watched the different methods that each of them have employed in overcoming said obstacles I am struck by the differences in personal outcome depending upon the method chosen to handle the trials.

There are several differing ways that people handle trials.  One is to blame others, including God.  Another is to accept that trials are a part of this life and try with grace and dignity to overcome them.

Life is not fair!  There are no limits to challenges that some will face. 

My experience with those that play the blame game in their trials in life actually create more obstacles and hurt in life.  As we blame others, we build the walls that keep out the very help that we can receive from others that will aide us in overcoming.  Blaming creates hate and poison within us that actually cause us further harm, it weakens us physically, mentally and spiritually thus creating for ourselves additional challenges and trials in life.  This includes the blame game that many play of blaming themselves.  Blaming others or ourselves actually creates PAIN, where there can be NO GAIN.

When we choose to accept the trials that are before us, no matter the difficulty or the journey with the effort to understand and use them for personal growth and development we allow others into our lives whom can help us and oftentimes teach us through their own experiences in ways to handle trials with dignity.    Trials in life are meant to help us gain something that we could otherwise not achieve.  Some of the greatest leaders that have ever lived have experienced tremendous personal loss and burdens in their lives.  Great leaders have always used that heartache to grow and then share that growth and wisdom they have learned in ways that lift and help others they encounter.

I have had opportunities in life where I have been able to experience the pain that deep personal heartache can bring.  I have spent times on both sides of this equation.  It is through the deepest of despair that I led myself into while blaming others for choices that affected me that I was taught this lesson.   When I began to embrace my heartache with the knowledge that I was going through this and I could come out a bitter individual or a wiser one, I chose the latter.  It wasn’t easy to change my outlook.  I am deeply grateful that I did.

Tremendous growth comes from tremendous pain when allowed to work within us. When against our challenges, and we play the blame game we create more pain and postpone the gain or growth that will occur within us.  Our perseverance and acceptance will help us through our struggles in the healthiest manner possible, which will more fully open our eyes to the wonder, opportunities and joy of life that exist for each of us thus enabling each of us to grow and become what we are destined to become.

 

My Beloved Wife – A Miraculous Journey Together

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If I had to live every pain, sorrow, anguish and heartache that I have ever experienced and walk through the depths of despair in this life as a requirement to meet my dear beloved wife, I would have gladly done so with rejoicing in my heart!

Many times in my life I have wondered why am I going through these heartaches and struggles.  My dreams and desires for my life have oftentimes been dashed upon the jagged rocks of the emotional cliffs I have been thrown over.  I have found myself in the depths of my sorrow crying out why me to my God as the heartaches nearly crushed my spirit and will to live.  I at times have felt the despair of a life that went completely contrary to the plans I had made for me.  I had always lived a clean life, free from the vices of men, I am a devoted husband and father. I had always helped and served my fellowman, I gave to the poor and needy.  I did everything I was taught to do yet my life was not where I had imagined it being.  I lived the “leave it to beaver” life with a polar opposite result.

Each day I would arise and go forth, working to build a better life for myself and my children.  I would shake off daily the self doubts and frustrations that would haunt me as a result of unbearable heartache and sadness.  As I did so I became stronger and prepared for the gift and blessing from my Father in Heaven that I had so pleaded with him for over the countless years.  Doors were opened that would allow this opportunity to take place.

Then one day nearly 3 years ago it all changed.  As I continued to press forward, believing that there were better things in my life than what I had heretofore experienced, I met my dear Karla.  Prayers were answered and blessings granted as the most amazing women entered my life.

Never in my life had I imagined, nor believed that a noble women of such grace and beauty existed.  I still to this day vividly recall the first time our eyes met, across that meeting where she had come to meet with me for the first time as a potential  business consultant for her shelter.  When our eyes met that first time, my soul exploded with the knowledge and joy that this woman was to play a significant role in my life.  Immediately all the pain of my past vanished, it was replaced with a certain knowledge that which I had earnestly prayed for was beginning to unfold around me.

I recall that time of wonder and excitement as the true realization of the blessings I had sought were at my doorstep.   My prayers had been answered.  Karla had been brought into my life through a very unique set of circumstances that led both of us to a point where we could meet.  I don’t question the miracle that I had been given at that time, for to do so would invalidate all the pain that I had experienced and the prayers that I had pleaded to have answered.

My Dear Beloved Karla is the sweetest most compassionate, loving and accepting individual that I have ever known, which says so much if you have ever met my mother!  Karla’s love for people is deeply evident by the long hours of service that she gives to those individuals seeking shelter, her family, neighbors, and friends.   Karla is the first person to be there when needed and the last one to leave.  There are many times, where due to the demands on this amazing woman that we don’t see each other until late at night as we are tiredly climbing into bed.  As she collapses into the pillows from exhaustion, I wrap my arms around her and thank my God that he led this remarkable woman to me.  There is never a day that goes by where I do not give thanks for this blessing.

Karla’s service to the rape recovery center, the domestic violence shelter, Centro De La Familia, the statewide coalition against domestic violence, her service as a board member for her daughters charter school, the community outreach centers she has created, and too many more to mention are unfathomable that one woman can accomplish all that she has.  The lives that she has impacted and helped will affect generations to come.  It is no wonder that she has been recognized as a top 30 women to watch in addition to the humanitarian of the year award she recently received. I have been blessed beyond measure with a woman of remarkable ability, grace strength and beauty.

I gladly accept every challenge in life that I have been given, without them they would never have led us to the same spot, where years of prayers could finally be answered.  My angel, my soul mate, my confidant, my best friend, Thank you for loving me and letting me be a part of your life.  I will love you through the eternities. The miracles that brought us together will keep us as we continue our miraculous journey together!