Final Installment: A Day at the Courthouse
Posted on June 7, 2012 by Julia
The sanctuary for Battered Women was full to capacity. The lovely women before me represented a complete profile of the face of domestic violence in this country. Every age, ethnicity, level of education, socioeconomic group and belief was represented here. As I related my story of eighteen years of domestic violence and complete deprivation, they listened with rapt attention. They nodded in agreement and recognition of my experiences as similar to their own. They dabbed tears from their eyes, shook their heads, held their babies close to their hearts.
Not only women, but innocent, beautiful little children are affected when domestic violence occurs in a family. It is also true that when a woman decides to heal herself, break free from her oppressor, and build a strong, new, good life, her children also benefit.
Every decision we make has a ripple effect that spreads out to those around us. When these women entered this haven for victims of domestic violence, they started a process of healing not only for themselves, but for their children.
As I applauded their decision to build a better life, I encouraged them to keep it up, take advantage of the services and help offered to them, vigorously pursue counseling, work opportunities and training, and realize that they and their children are worthy of peace, joy and comfort.
When I was done with my remarks, a young hispanic woman came up to me, hugged me and said in Spanish, “I do not understand much English, but I understood every word you said.”
Such is the power of sharing my compelling story and the value of reaching out to women who are seeking a better life!
I rush out to the shed with packages of blanched vegetables that are ready for the freezer. When I open the door, I notice that the handle is sticky. It is probably ice-cream evidence left by one of our teen-aged boys, who was raiding the freezer in the August heat.
I deposit my veggie treasures, and duck back into the house. Moments later, I sally forth; armed with a bucket of soapy, warm water and a sponge. I am on a mission. I charge up to the sticky monstrosity, ready for battle.
The freezer fires its first salvo as I touch the door handle. A strong jolt of electricity jars my arm. My hand is paralyzed, clutching the handle. Since my left hand will not let go, I panic.
Thus begins a ‘perfect trifecta’ of mistakes that comes very near costing me my life. My right hand drops the bucket of soapy water and reaches to the aid of my ‘frozen’ left hand. The water puddles around my bare feet in the dirt. My right hand on its errand of mercy becomes just as unable to move as my left hand.
There I am, with both hands immobile, clutching the freezer door. A very strong current of electricity is coursing across my heart. I cannot move any part of my body. I am rooted to the spot, tied to the electric monster. Unable to move, I can still think and yell. I know my two teen-aged sons are still in their rooms, sleeping-in. Harry, my husband, has gone to Home Depot. If I yell, none of them will hear me. But, I have to yell! Maybe the neighbors will hear me. I know my heart can’t take much more of this.
I begin yelling, “Help, help! I’m being electrocuted!”
The voice doesn’t sound like me at all. I get no response, but I continue yelling. I have no choice; there is nothing else I can do.
I realize that this could be it! I won’t last much longer.
My life does not flash before my eyes. I just regret not being more careful. I know better than to do what I have done. What a useless way to die! I am determined to live, even though I don’t know how I can.
Meanwhile, unknown to me, Harry has returned and gone out to his hobby shop. He hears the racket, and not recognizing the voice, he thinks that the neighbors are fighting again. The racket continues. In a while, he thinks that he recognizes the voice and wonders what the ‘hoopla’ is all about.
He grins and says, “What’s the matter now?”
I yell, “I’m being electrocuted!”
He comes toward me saying, “Well, let go; jump back!”
I say, “I can’t! I can’t move!”
He takes stock of the situation from the vantage point of his Navy medic training. He knows that if he touches me, he too will be rooted to the spot.
He says, “I’ll go around to the patio and unplug the freezer.”
I know that to the patio is a long way to go. I feel that my heart cannot beat much longer. I say, “No, there is not time! I am going to die!”
In an instant, he makes up his mind. Ready to die with me if necessary, he tucks his left arm behind his back and holds his right arm out in an arc. He runs full-force toward me, hoping that as he tackles me, his weight and momentum will pull us both free, when his arm catches me.
It works! We fall to the ground in a heap. As I lie on the ground crying, he goes around and pulls the plug on the monster.
Later, in the Naval Hospital emergency room, a doctor who has had experience with accidental electrocution examines me. He says that I am very lucky to be alive. Tests show that no permanent damage has been done, no internal organs have been cooked, no damage has been done to my heart. The only damage is my bruised side where I landed on the ground.
The doctor says that the very puddle of water around my bare feet that exacerbated the whole incident, also led the electricity directly into the ground and spared me the sort of horrible exit wound that he had seen in similar cases.
I am alive! The rest of my life is a gift from Harry!
Posted on July 12, 2012 by Julia
Survive and Thrive!
Posted on September 29, 2012 by Julia
On July 14, 2012, my family and I experienced a life changing event. Life will never be the same. My oldest son, Edward, died suddenly of a fatal arrhythmia. His death was sudden, unexpected and devastating. He passed away at the peak of a great career and in what we thought was perfect health. Mere words will never express the heartbreak and emptiness of those first few days of knowing that we would never see him again on this earth.
I have been silent on the website now for eleven weeks. But now, in his honor I have decided that I should continue to reach out to women and children in Domestic Violence situations. He would want me to do that. He gave his best to every day he lived. I can go on.
I will continue to share my story with women in shelters, Life Skills classes, prison, and men and women in Church Groups, Civic groups and organizations. I can tell them of my experiences and what I have learned from them.
The Battered Woman needs to look within and find what caused her to become a victim. I will relate to them that the typical Battered Woman has:
Women need to get the help they need to strengthen their resolve and self-image. They are usually surprised when they hear some of the characteristics of the typical Batterer.
It is an “ah-ha” moment for them when they see the similarity – a “perfect match!”
I urge these women that for the sake of themselves, and their children if they have them, they must do the hard work to dig-out of their dilemma, one good choice at a time. I tell them that they have made weak choices one at a time and it will take time to heal and become strong. I also let them know that they will not always make the right choices, but with faith and persistence and help they can become whole and healthy.
I also tell them to be very careful about just finding another abuser and repeating their history. The following factors are vital to their success as these things were to mine.
I close with the solid advice my deceased son gave to his siblings not long before he left us
My purpose is not to stand before anyone as a victim. I am not a disgruntled ex-wife seeking to demonize her former husband. When I started writing Little Texas Sweetheart I wrote for my children, hoping to explain to them what had happened to our family. I hoped to build a bridge of communication to them that would build understanding and forgiveness.
As I wrote, or rather, the story wrote itself, tumbling out of me, memories crowded into my mind. I began to discern my part in the drama. I was not a victim after all. My children were the victims, and I had my part in it. I had started my life as a victim, but it had been possible to leave victim status behind and become triumphant. Here is how it came about.
When I started to write, the only way I was able to bring order out of the chaos of our eighteen years of Domestic Violence was to start with my earliest childhood memories. In my mind I put a “freeze frame” over scenes from my life. As time progressed, the memories arrived in vivid and accurate sequence. One by one, early times came to me; from falling into a pond at age two, up to the most shattering experience of my young life.
At age ten I was sexually molested over a period of two years by my teacher. He was handsome, talented and popular. I was unprepared for how to handle this. I had always been told to obey authority, to be polite and compliant. I was good at that!
As time passed, I had done all l could to forget and “bury” those sad recollections. Now, as those terrifying memories came flooding back into my mind, I felt the heavy weight of guilt. In the early 1950’s children were to be seen and not heard. Counseling was not available, and parents did not talk frankly with their children about sex or the realities of life. My parents were especially good at keeping up appearances. It was not possible for me to tell them what was happening. As events unfolded to a tragic end, I felt completely responsible for the eventual violent death of the pedophile who had violated me at such a young age.
As I wrote those awful memories, I began to realize that in this case I was certainly a victim. I was not at fault at that young age. I had been victimized. I began to understand that the resultant low self esteem, the desire to never let anyone know what had happened to me, the overwhelming feeling of being dirty and unworthy, set me up for the future predator who pursued and married me. The seeds of becoming the object of violence in my unfortunate marriage were planted when I was ten years old.
Following that realization, I started my quest to educate parents in how vital it is to have open communication with their children. How important it is to guard their little ones carefully, not to be too trusting of those who work with them, to be aware of potential dangers. Parents should give their children the needed information to help them avoid dangers. Parents, please keep the lines of communication open with your children!
Posted on October 8, 2012 by Julia
Posted on June 2, 2013 by Julia
Why did I end up in an abusive marriage, and why did I stay in a terrible situation for eighteen years? I found the answers within me. I needed healing. I found healing and peace through counseling and soul searching. I built a new life of strength and happiness.
The more I explored my past, the more I sought to find forgiveness and understanding. What is forgiveness, and how do we find it? I do not seek to hold onto the past, nor do I want to be bitter. I can either let the past control me or serve me. I have chosen to master my destiny. Here is what I have learned.
When you come to the place in your heart where you can go on with your life and hope for peace and healing for your adversary, you have reached forgiveness.
Reconciliation is not necessary and indeed not even possible if your abuser has not changed. You are free to go into your new life with hope and even joy. I have found forgiveness for myself and for my former husband. My heart is at peace.
Song of Joy!
Posted on June 2, 2013 by Julia
I urged them to take full advantage of programs and help offered along the way. I also told them that as they heal and become strong, they will gain added joy and strength by reaching out to help others as they have been helped, thus returning the favor and adding good will to the universe.
The event was featured in a front page article in The Coast News.
Welcome Home Ministries
Posted on October 8, 2013 by Julia
My name is Julia Chadwell. I am the proud mother of eight children, a retired elementary school teacher, (20 years), and I am happily married to my second husband. My first marriage was a disaster, but I learned so much in those dark years that I am eager to share my experiences, with the hope of helping victims of abuse. For eighteen years in the 1960’s and 1970’s I was an abused spouse. My children and I escaped our abuser even though in those years resources for abuse victims were meager and public awareness was not widespread.
I have made my life an open book in order to educate and warn, women primarily, about the characteristics and behavior of men who are abusive. In the 1980’s and 1990’s I kept my dark secret, not wanting anyone to know what had happened to my family. I was ashamed. Finally I realized that telling our story could help others.
Or, mail a check to mail check to:
P. O. Box. 3676, Vista CA 92085.
$15 per copy, plus $5.95 shipping (US addresses only). For international orders, click here. Thank you!
Posted on March 27, 2014 by Julia
NEW! Now available on Kindle via Amazon.com!
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How will they know who waited the longest?…
At 8:00 AM the office door opens and a fiercely calm and tidy lady with a clipboard enters the crowded hallway. The throng pushes in around her. She asks who is here for the Divorce Workshop. Hands and voices are raised. She begins taking names and writing them on her list.
We press in. She takes my daughter’s name. When she questions me, she says that I can’t come in. Seating is limited. It is only for those who are seeking a divorce. My heart sinks. I know that my daughter needs the support of my presence. We are in this together!
The young lady who was ahead of us in line is told that she can’t participate. She speaks only Spanish and the class is in English. She needs to have an interpreter with her. She is told to come back next week with the required help in translating the proceedings. Her shoulders sag. Dejected, she starts to walk away.
My daughter, who thinks fast, reaches toward the young woman, telling the lady with the clipboard that I am her interpreter. (I do speak some limited Spanish.) I can see that the kind lady knows what we are doing, but she decides to allow it.
Salome`, that is the young lady’s name, is obviously relieved and grateful. Then the lady with the power and the clipboard asks if she has the packet of legal papers to be filled out in the workshop, Salome` is confused. She says that she does not have the papers.
I tell my daughter and our new friend to stay in the hallway ready to enter when the door opens. I will go purchase the needed packet. I hurry down the hall on my errand.
When I return, mission accomplished, they are just opening the Family Services door. Inside the small room, space is limited. An extra chair is produced for me. I sit between my daughter and my charge. Across the room I am relieved to see the “lawn chair” man.
The workshop proceeds rapidly. An overhead projector displays images of the forms we are filling out. I desperately search for Spanish words to help Salome` with filling in the required information. People around us begin supplying words, offering help. Our clipboard-bearing friend even helps.
As I settle into my new role of interpreter and decision maker, I find words and ideas coming more easily. Soon, a friendly, cooperative feeling pervades the chosen group of thirty-five plus one. We are all in this together!
A picture of Salome` as totally disenfranchised by a husband who dominates and bullies her emerges. I am glad that I can help her.
After a long morning of thinking fast and communicating slowly with my new friend, our pile of forms is finally completed. Salome’s finances are comparatively easy, as she has very little in the way of worldly goods. So, we proceed to the County Registrar’s Office down the hall to file her legal paperwork.
My daughter remains behind, assisted by a “pro-bono” lawyer who volunteers his time to help at the clinic. The angel of the clipboard says she will stay through her lunch break to help. My daughter’s financial declaration is taking more time.
A long line has formed at the Registrar’s office. This line is composed of most of the thirty-five people who labored beside us all morning long. The line is moving very slowly. We have had nothing to eat or drink for hours. A pregnant lady in front of us is exhausted. She says she is hungry but doesn’t want to lose her place in line. With a big smile, Salome` reaches into her bag and produces the banana we had given to her at 5:30 AM. The hungry woman gratefully accepts the fruit.
There is a feeling of friendship in the line. We have endured a half-day ordeal together.
The bully who wanted our place in line is talking loudly about asking for full custody of his children. We shudder at the thought. The gorgeous lady in the leopard-skin coat is very unhappy because since she has been married to her “sugar-daddy” for only two years, she does not qualify for spousal support. She is furious that she won’t be allowed to keep the Mercedes.
A young lady standing behind me in line is leaning on a large suitcase on wheels, reading a book. I comment on the long wait. She tells me that she is a court courier. She is used to it. She always has a book to read while she waits in line.
The clock is moving ever closer to three o’clock, the closing time for this office. My daughter still has not joined us. We let several people go ahead of us, as we are waiting for her.
Finally we step up to the counter just as my daughter arrives with her completed paperwork. I write a check for the $350 filing fee that will free my daughter from a miserable marriage.
Salome` is horror-stricken when her turn comes and she realizes that there is a fee involved. She works in a sewing factory and has no way of paying the required money to file her legal documents.
I step up to the counter and ask the woman there if there is any help available for Salome`s case. We are given the form needed to ask the court to waive her fees. I help Salome` fill in the information.
As the clock’s hands reach 3:00 PM, we are finished.
Tomorrow I will serve a copy of the Court Documents to my soon-to-be ex-Son-in-Law.
Will we ever see Salome` again?
Postscript: One week after this adventure, the local newspaper reported that the procedure at the Courthouse for obtaining a spot in the free Divorce Workshop had been changed.
Appointments were now available, however the morning line-up would still be allowed on a “first-come first-served” basis.
Posted on July 4, 2012 by Julia
Posted on June 23, 2012 by Julia
I was astounded and felt validated when in my first session the counselor told me that he would help me free myself and my eight children from the nightmare in which we lived.
At our very next session he handed me a very powerful and revealing document. It wasThe Gateway Study, Conversations With Battered Women. It had been published in 1979 as a project of the Oceanside Women’s Resource Center. At that time this center was in its formative stage, just getting started. They had very limited resources, but had produced a lifesaving document.
Reading a clinical description of my condition opened my eyes. The malady is called “Battered Woman Syndrome,” so named in 1979 by Lenore Walker in her landmark book of the same name.
I realized that I had an extreme case. Once I realized my symptoms, I knew that I could recover. (In my mind I equated it to having the measles and getting the proper medicine to get rid of the illness.) This awakening was the beginning of my recovery and freedom.
Imagine my joy when thirty-two years later I could return to offer hope to battered women being helped by that same organization. I took that original document, yellowed and tattered from much use over the years, to an educational session for women who are currently engaged in the battle of their lives. These women are seeking the strength to overcome their weakness, dependence and passivity. They are struggling to attain freedom from fear and violence.
I, as a thriving survivor, could offer them hope. I could point the way to a better life and show them that I was able to do it!
If anyone reading this sees themselves in either set of symptoms, please get help! You can be free to live a fulfilling and joyful life.