Lucky to be alive: An abuse victim’s story

By on August 24, 2016

NLHweb“Erin’s Escape” is part of a series of stories on the addiction crisis facing our society. The stories are written by Janice Ballenger, who works at Retreat at Lancaster County, a premiere 160-bed addiction center in Ephrata. Working closely with addicts, she has a burning passion to raise awareness and offer hope to all.

Substance abuse too often causes domestic abuse and can result in appalling behavior. In the United States, it is estimated that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. One-fourth to one-half of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have substance abuse problems. Erin’s attacker was her friend, she thought. She trusted him. She was lucky enough to get out alive to share her story. Erin’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

“Erin’s Escape”

My name is Erin and I have gone through some very horrifying experiences. I learned the hard way that you should never try to justify anyone’s actions. It all started a little over two years ago. I thought that I had met this amazing and sweet man. We met at a bar in New Holland. Bob came over and bought me a drink. He told me how beautiful I was and that he would do anything to make me his girl. I can’t honestly say that I fell for it, but I needed a friend. I wasn’t on the right track at that time and I was doing drugs. I was all over the place. I wasn’t homeless; I was just never at home. A month before I met Bob, my dad hung himself from a doorknob with my 3-year-old daughter sleeping in the room. I was trying my best to stay strong for my daughter and new born son. The only way that I knew how to cope was to turn to drugs. I felt like they made me strong, but they didn’t. Drugs completely messed up my life!

Bob and I starting hanging out and talking. I would go over to his house because that was my safe haven. I thought that he wouldn’t let anything bad ever happen to me. Bob had a job as a wannabe drug dealer. He sold cocaine and would give it to me when I there. I didn’t think anything of it. I was clouded because of the way that Bob and the drugs made me feel as a person. I looked at him as my best friend. I wanted to be in a relationship with this man, but I didn’t want to be changed. I wanted to live my life happy and carefree, and forget about all of my problems, even to the point where my children were with family members most of the time.

At that time I also had some court issues. I had a warrant out for my arrest. I did three and a half months in the county jail, one month in rehab, six months in a halfway house, and six months on probation. I lost contact with Bob during this time period. I didn’t see him for about a year. I was so proud to be in recovery and not dependent on drugs to get through the day. One day I ran into one of his friends and he gave me Bob’s new phone number. I wanted to let him know how good I was doing. I called him a few days later and we hung out that night. I stayed overnight. The next day my brother-in-law kicked me out of his house because I had stayed the night with Bob. So I ended up moving in with Bob because I had nowhere else to go. The first month that I lived with him was great! After that month he became more controlling. He wouldn’t let me see my children. The only thing he let me do was go to work. I worked hard to pay our bills while Bob worked as the wannabe drug dealer. I thought he was just trying to make sure I stayed out of trouble. I learned that was not the case. It went downhill from there.

He became emotionally abusive. I still didn’t see the signs. My judgment was clouded by the man that I had first met. Then it got worse. One night he came home from the bar drunk and high on drugs. He was angry with me because I had spoken to one of his friends who had been at my job for dinner. He walked in the house, drunk and high, woke me up and started screaming at me. I told him to leave me alone. I told him he was overreacting and I had to get up in two hours and get ready for work, after just working 16 hours straight. I had fallen asleep on the couch, so I walked up the stairs to go to bed. He followed me and was mad because I had given him no other reaction. Bob yanked me out of bed and threw me across the room. My neck broke the side of the television, which was not good since my neck was broken before in three places and has a metal plate and four screws in it. I got up and tried to defend myself. I weighed 125 pounds and he weighed 230 pounds. I tried to lock him out but he broke the door to get in. It finally ended after a couple hours of fighting.

When I woke up I couldn’t move my neck and I was in excruciating pain. I called off work and went to the hospital. It was the middle of July, so it was hot, and I was bruised from head to toe. When I returned to work I wore long sleeved shirts and make-up to cover my bruises. I wanted to leave him after that, but he started crying and saying that he was sorry and was never going to do it again. I stupidly believed him.

Then it proceeded to happen more frequently. He would choke, punch and bite me because I looked the wrong way or he didn’t like something that I was doing, or just because he was drunk, high, and mad. I started going to work with swollen lips and more bruises around my neck from him choking me. It then got to the point where I tried to leave and he wouldn’t let me. He tied me up and told me that he would find me and kill me if I ever left him. So I stayed. I was scared! I called my brother-in-law to ask if I could stay there because I knew Bob didn’t know where they lived. I would have felt safe there, but my brother-in-law told me that I had gotten myself in this situation, so I had to get myself out. At this time I was scared and had nowhere else to go where he wouldn’t find me. Even if I did, he knew where I worked in Manheim. After all of the abuse that I went through, I kept trying to justify what was going on. But one night things turned really, really bad.

I had closed at my waitress job that night. It happened to be a slow night and I had only made $82 dollars. I called him to come and get me. He was mad because he had to leave the bar to come pick me up. It was around 1:30 in the morning. When he got there he asked how much money I had made. He started yelling at me and told me how I was lazy and that’s why I hadn’t made more money.

I let him yell at me for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t take it anymore. I told him to shut up about eight times in a row. I begged him to take me home so I could get some sleep before I had to get up and go back to work to pay the bills. We pulled into a Turkey Hill parking lot and he got out of the truck. He walked over to my door, swung it open, and screamed, “I’ll teach you how to shut up!” My first thought was that he was going to shoot heroin into me. But instead, he grabbed a knife. Never in a million years did I think he would do that. But drugs and alcohol make people do crazy things.

He started to stab me and choke me until I was literally defenseless. I kicked him and he stopped choking me but continued stabbing me. I was stabbed five times that night. Bob sliced my lip open, cut my face, stabbed the side of my head, slashed my left leg, and stabbed me in my left leg. He was an inch away from the main artery in my leg. I could have bled to death, right then and there, in a Turkey Hill parking lot! I stayed calm and acted like I wanted to go home to shower so I could get some sleep for work the next day. When I made it inside our bathroom I called the cops, and that is the only way I made it out alive.

So, PLEASE, anyone who gets abused in any way, get out right away. If they do it once, they WILL do it again, no matter what they say, and it will only get worse because they know you will stay. I really hope that you can take my experience and help yourself and your family before it is too late. I have fought a thousand battles and I’m still standing. I’ve cried a thousand tears and I’m still smiling. I was lucky that I escaped alive. Too many don’t make it out. I am here to share my story and possibly help others, and save lives. Do not put yourself, your kids or your family through something horrific that could have been prevented. Get out while you can!

Janice can be reached at janiceballenger@yahoo.com.

Read previous articles in this series.

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