I didn’t report the abuse! I didn’t report the last situation when he shot a gun above my head and threatened to kill me. It’s like I lost myself! I look back and wonder, how did I let it all happen?

We met in Arizona, that’s where I’m from. At the time I was single with three children. My boys were aged eight and seven and my little girl was five. She has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, her twin died at birth. My life revolved around caring for her and my two boys. 

I married him six months after we met and we immediately moved to Kansas City, his home town. My eldest boy stayed with my Mom and I brought my other son and daughter with me. That was eleven years ago. When we got to KC he showed his true colors. He started stealing the income I had to care for my daughter and when I spoke up, he got abusive, calling me names and spitting on me. Then he got violent and threatened to kill me if I told anyone about what was going on. He beat my son too and he started acting out at school. I covered everything up and told the school I didn’t know why he was acting out, but I did know–it was because of his home life. We were often homeless and lived in shelters. It went on for years. 

Why did you stay with him? I felt that if I stayed with him and did what he said, he wouldn’t do any real harm to me. He used to say he would kill me, so I thought it was better to go through the abuse than to die. I had two other little girls by him and felt trapped. I didn’t tell anyone. My family didn’t know, I was frightened and ashamed. I tried to manage it all. The violence just kept getting worse and my son spiraled out of control. He ran away, he was only fifteen. They couldn't catch up with him, he’d started running the streets.

I decided to confide in my Aunt and try and get my kids to Arizona. She cautioned me to be careful and said, “I know it’s scary and dangerous, but men can go nuts and do real harm. I’d hate for you to up-and-go and something happen to you.” She wanted me to make slow changes, so he wouldn’t see it coming.

I made a plan. My kids were all in school including my eldest who had cerebral palsy. This meant I could work, and I was donating plasma to make extra money. My husband was coming and going, I just stayed low and out of his way. I found some people who said they would pick us up, but I didn’t want to leave my son. So I was trying to find him to bring him with me. I couldn’t leave him behind, I wouldn’t leave him behind.

Then my eldest daughter got sick and I had to take her to emergency. The shunt in her head was not functioning properly so they kept her in overnight. That was on the Friday. The following day I was at home braiding my younger girls hair and there was a knock on the door. The DSS were on my doorstep telling me I had to sign papers and take my kids to a shelter. My daughter had told the nurses that my husband had been sexually abusing her. I was shocked and angry. I denied the allegations. I wouldn’t sign the papers, although I did eventually agree to go to the shelter. 

Didn’t you think your husband was capable of sexually abusing your daughter? All I could think was, with the DSS involved I’ll never get my kids together and get to Arizona. I was frightened and in shock! Self-protection, shame, denial—it all kicked in. Later, I went to visit my daughter in hospital and that’s when she told me herself and the horror sank in. That’s when I felt real shame. I kept saying over and over, “how could I have let that happen?”

My daughter is in foster care now and I’m in a domestic violence shelter. I can’t see any of my children until I get a psychiatric evaluation so I’m working on getting that.

Tell me about your journey to Reconciliation Services. I was recommended to RS because they have a therapy program. I came and met Miss Sylvia, and I’ve been coming for therapy with her every week, since August 2015. I’ve learned a lot. I have good days and bad days. It’s gonna take some time. It was eleven years. I’ve had trouble talking about this with anyone but with Miss Sylvia I’ve felt comfortable to open up, and come out the with the truth. I’m learning to take a long hard look at the truth. I’ve never opened up to my family about the abuse, but now they know and I’m here talking to you! I’ve found some strength here at RS and I’m learning to be honest and trust people.

It really hurts me that I allowed my kids to live like that. I want the-moment-before-I-left-Arizona back, but I can’t get it back! My kids have lost a lot of precious years because of my choices. I didn’t protect them. I feel guilty but the anguish I feel because of the pain I’ve caused my kids, is much worse than the feeling of guilt. I think about looking them in the face and I have a hard time with that. I just want to make it up to them. 

What’s next for you Lilly? I’m continuing in therapy with Miss Sylvia and doing what I can to meet the DSS’ requirements to be able to see my children. I’m starting a six week RS group therapy program called SNaP on January 27th (it stands for Strength, Energy and Power). Since coming to RS, I’ve completed course-work for Phlebotomy and I take my national exam on February 27th. I want to find work in this field. I’m also working on my pre-requisites for nursing at Kansas City Community Community College. I am thirty nine years old, and all I want is to make a life for me and my children.

Is there anything you would like to share to encourage others? Yes, I’ve come to realize that I am not responsible for anyone else’s choices or actions but my own. I can’t do anything about the past, it’s gone. I can learn from it and I can make good choices today.

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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photo credit: Tom Morse-Brown