CCR: October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: My Story


In the spring, I retired from victim advocacy at HELP of Door County, but the pull to remain connected to the people doing the work remains strong, so now I’m a part-time executive assistant.

Like most people who are attracted to advocacy, I experienced coercive control in a relationship long ago, although at the time I didn’t recognize it. I just thought my partner was angry at the world and took it out on me. I thought that with love and loyalty, I could fix him. (Spoiler: No one can fix anyone. We can, however, each fix ourselves.)

When I became an advocate, I learned many things. Here’s what I learned about what I had experienced. 

When a person with whom you’re in a relationship regularly insults and demeans you, and questions your intelligence, your wardrobe choices, your friends and your career – it isn’t about you. It’s about them. They want control. Maybe they think having control over you will make them happy. I guess that’s why they think it’s OK to treat you badly – because they deserve to be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy, but not by hurting someone else.

For me, it started innocuously. I dismissed the insults to his having had a bad day. When he degraded my job, I passed it off to his raw feelings about not having a job himself. Although he had ample resources, he refused to contribute to the household bills until he had painstakingly reviewed every grocery receipt, marking off items he said he didn’t eat so therefore wouldn’t pay for.

It took me a long time to recognize the pattern, and I paid for it. So did my child. When I did finally see the toxicity we were living with, I took action. I was lucky to have had people who could help me transition to life without him.

I didn’t know about HELP of Door County at that time. I didn’t know there were people I could talk to about what was going on, people who could help me gather the strength I needed to take steps to change my situation.

When I became an advocate, I learned that every situation is different. Each client is at a different point on the journey to healthier living, and that journey is almost never a straight line. Some folks need the help offered by other local agencies, and getting them connected to the help they need is a real pleasure.

If you or someone you know would benefit from the nonjudgmental ear of a person who knows about healthy and unhealthy relationships and who can help put a plan together to help you make changes, call HELP of Door County – 24/7, 365 days a year – at 920.743.8818.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.

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