February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. These past several weeks, I have posted facts about violence in dating relationships among teens, signs that your dating relationship may not be healthy and how to set boundaries in relationships.
Teens who find themselves in violent dating relationships are in danger of continuing the pattern as adults. Sheli Emenheiser is a survivor of domestic violence. She shares her true store in raw, honest conversation with teens as we visit area schools to teach them about safe dating relationships. Here is Sheli’s story:
I was running through the house screaming at the top of my lungs. The kind of scream that a girl uses in one of those horror movie flick screams. I was terrified of him!
I went through the entire house and was running out of places to go, so I headed toward the basement — probably the worst place in the whole house to go. No one could hear me there and I would have nowhere else to run. He cornered me in front of the washer and dryer and knocked me to the floor. I knew at this point I didn’t have much to work with, so I aimed and kicked. I remember thinking “Please don’t let this wake the kids up.” Maybe that is why I headed to the basement. Our home was a beautiful Victorian home and the kids were up on the second floor asleep.
Surely my kicking him would buy me some time. However, it wasn’t as long as I would have hoped. He was behind me sooner than I thought and once again I was cornered in a very small bathroom.
This time there was no escape and I had added fuel to the fire by kicking him earlier. I braced myself for whatever was going to happen. He drew back his arm and swung. For once in my life my timing was impeccable and I ducked at just the right moment. His hand went crashing into oak trim, the end result being three broken bones in his hand. What amazed me even more was, after he did this, he wanted me to take him to the hospital. I was like “absolutely not, drive yourself or walk” (at the time we lived blocks away from the hospital). He drove himself. I still can’t remember what started that argument, but I will never forget the end result and the terror I felt.
This was unfamiliar territory for me. I had not grown up in an environment like this. I had always suffered from low self-esteem. As a teenager, I never thought I was pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough…basically I was never enough. It led me to make bad choices in boys and men that I dated. So, here I was 28 years old, with two of my own children and two stepchildren and a husband I feared. I was so alone. The choices I had made had isolated me from all of my family and friends. There was no one to turn to and nowhere to run.
“Persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.”
I came across that passage in II Corinthians 4:9 after I had traveled down one of the loneliest roads I have ever known. My story of abuse is not unlike others, it is just my own.
We all make our own path in life, but we are all ultimately being guided. Because no matter where I have gone or what I have done, He has always been there to take me home.
The plans I made for my life did not include an abusive marriage, but when I found myself there, I knew it was not from God. On a horrible Thanksgiving eve that I will never forget, I took my two children and escaped. With the help of family and friends, I have found myself on a new path, in a good marriage, and with a mission to help other abused women become survivors.
I now have the privilege to go into schools and share my experiences with young men and women who may be struggling in the same ways. I also speak with Stonecroft Ministries, sharing my story with women who may be looking for answers. It’s not always easy to share some of the darkest, ugliest moments in my life, but I believe it is vitally important for women to know what the signs are. To be aware and know that there is help.