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24 Hour Hotline 1-800-863-9909
On a Monday evening Tessa’s husband Robert assaulted her. Just before the police arrived, Robert fled in Tessa’s truck. She was scared and didn’t want to stay at home without knowing if Robert would be arrested, so the officer brought Tessa to the police station to talk with her in a safe location and to connect her to Spruce Run’s hotline. The officer made the initial call into the hotline and passed the phone to Tessa.
Tessa explained she was too scared to go back home so the hotline worker talked with her about Spruce Run’s shelter. Tessa and the worker made a plan for her to stay in shelter temporarily. They also discussed a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) and how the court system and police could be a part of Tessa’s safety plan. The worker and Tessa also planned with the police so that she would know when Robert was arrested and when he was released. After one night in shelter Tessa knew that Robert was arrested and had not been released from jail. This gave her enough time to file a PFA and return to her home.
We worked together with the police and the court system to support Tessa and increase her safety. This type of community collaboration happens through Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance’s 24-hour hotline each week. It is the main way for community providers to connect, consult and work together in order to meet the needs of people affected by abuse in our community regardless of the time of day.
I have heard hundreds of survivors share their stories during my years working on the hotline, going to court, and facilitating support groups. Their voices echo within me, becoming one story resounding with fear, anger, sadness, and hope:
He is jealous of everyone. I’m not allowed to go anywhere without asking permission and then he interrogates me when I return. He puts down all my friends. I can’t even visit my own mother without a hassle. He checks the mileage on my car. He hides my keys. He won’t let me drive. He makes me account for every penny I spend. If I go to the store, he times me. If I’m late, there’s hell to pay.
If I leave, he says he’ll kill himself. If I leave, he says he’ll kill me. If I leave, he’ll take the kids. If I leave, he’ll never let me alone. If I leave…If I leave…If I leave…
He doesn’t hit me that much. He throws things. My things. He smashes his fist through the kitchen cabinets. He pushes me out in the snow. When he hits me, he acts as if nothing happened. He’s always sorry and says it won’t happen again. He says if only I didn’t push his buttons, it wouldn’t happen at all.
He tells people I’m crazy. He tells people I cheat on him. He tells me no one will ever believe me. Everyone likes him. Everyone thinks he’s a good guy. I don’t have any friends anymore. My family says we should work it out. My family is sick of me leaving and going back.
He tells me no one will ever want me. He says I’m too stupid to work, too fat, too ugly, too skinny, too slutty. He tells me I can’t do anything right. I can’t do anything right.
I just want to take a walk or see a friend or read a book without him always there. I’m always walking on eggshells wondering what he’s going to do. I just want to be myself. I just want to breath my own breath.
When I left, he followed me everywhere. He knows what I eat for breakfast, who I talk to, where I shop. I know he knows because he tells me. He leaves flowers in my car. He killed my cat and left it in the mailbox. He says he’ll do anything to get me back. Anything. He says if he can’t have me, nobody can.
The kids are all mixed up. They’re acting out at school. When they see him, he cries and says I don’t believe in marriage. He asks them what I’m doing, who I’m seeing. I wonder if it will ever end, if I’ll ever be rid of him. I’ve called the police when I see him passing by my house. They say they have to catch him in the act. They say I need a witness. I’m so tired of it all. I’m just so tired.
Some days I feel hopeful. I’m beginning to like being alone. I can talk to friends on the phone as long as I like. I’m looking for work and I’m taking a class. I’m not as dumb as he says. I’m really not. Sometimes I hear his voice in my head and it sets me back. I’ve got to work so hard to get out of bed. I’m trying to figure out who I am. Who I am without him. I know I’m someone. I know I am.
Andrea Itkin — New Hope for Women