Sturgeon Bay Teen Tells Her Story of Domestic Violence

“There was always a lot of fighting before one of the biggest [fights] when we left the first time,” Jane* recalls. “That was when my mom tricked me into leaving home with her for the shelter.”

When asked why she and her mother left Green Bay, 14-year-old Jane states that it was because her parents were in an abusive relationship. “I guess my mom thought that I would be in a better environment somewhere away from home – that the fighting would rub off. And that it wasn’t good for my confidence and self-esteem.”

The first time that Jane and her mother fled their home in Green Bay they stayed in a domestic abuse shelter for nearly a month. Jane’s father was allowed supervised visits at the shelter but chose not to participate, so Jane went a month without seeing her father with no warning.

“Then we went back home. We stayed probably 6, or 8, or 12 months; I don’t know exactly…I kept checking the trunk of my mom’s car for luggage to see if she was going to take me away again. I didn’t want to go,” says Jane. “But, then we left again because things were still bad…I thought we were going to the library.”

Jane and her mother moved 200 miles from their home and started a new life. Jane explains that it was hard to get along with her mother after leaving. “I got along best with my mom when we were with my dad because there was another outlet. And I kind of got more gifts. Like, if they got in a fight then my dad would want to do something with me, or my mom would want to bring me to the library. It makes me sound like a brat, but… yeah.”

After a few years, Jane and her mother moved to Sturgeon Bay where they came to HELP of Door County, Inc. to receive education, support and advocacy around building their relationship. Similar to many other children who are in violent homes, Jane did not acknowledge that her mother was being abused and she held resentment about leaving multiple homes, family and friends.

The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System ( explains that children do not always recognize the victim or perpetrator in an abusive relationship. “Young children don’t recognize the power imbalance when parents ‘fight.’ Both adults seem equally powerful to them” (Little Eyes, Little Ears: How violence against a mother shapes children as they grow, Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker ).

Domestic abuse centers on power and control, often leaving a mother powerless over her children as well. Lundy Bancroft, researcher and author of issues relating to domestic violence, explains that children may begin to believe their abusive parent’s justifications for verbal, physical or emotional abuse. To reverse these effects takes education and time. Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault, but it is often difficult for children to make this judgment.

Jane admits that she thinks her parents’ relationship has affected the way she acts. “I think that I picked up on the way that they would yell or call each other names,” she says. Additionally, she cites not inviting friends to her home in Green Bay because she was afraid her parents would fight and that would embarrass her. She also says that moving so often has taken her away from friends and prevented her from getting very close to new ones that do not know her family history. With only 14 years behind her, Jane has a long story to tell.

Most children do not have the opportunity to tell their story of living with domestic violence, and the effect of violence on them is too often overlooked. HELP of Door County, Inc. hopes that Jane’s story will urge you to learn more about domestic violence during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

HELP of Door County will have informational displays and free giveaways for Domestic Violence Awareness month in Sturgeon Bay for the First Friday Artwalk on 3rd Avenue. HELP invites you to learn more about the domestic abuse agency and all the programs it offers, visit participating downtown shops, and listen to music from local artists on Friday, October 7 from 5 – 8 pm. Or, call HELP of Door County, Inc. for education, advocacy or support for domestic abuse at 920.743.8785.

* Names in this story have been changed for safety.