The patron whose story follows is a survivor of domestic violence. To protect her safety and well-being, her name, as well as that of her abuser, has been changed.
When Julie met Frank, it was love at first sight. Both were widowers, lonely in the absence of a spouse. He was a leader in the church and she was trying to strengthen her relationship with God. They had known each other since elementary school, and after dating for some time, decided to marry. It’s the sort of story you see in movies and read about in romance novels.
Until two months later when the first incident of domestic violence occurred. “Two months after we married, things started getting bad. The first thing he did was start destroying the furniture I brought into the house when we married,” Julie said. “I knew then that I’d made a mistake.”
From there, Frank got more controlling. He became severely jealous and panicked each time Julie’s phone rang. He wanted to know who she was talking to at all times. Then Frank wouldn’t allow Julie out of his sight–she was forced to accompany him everywhere he went. Shortly thereafter, Frank started taking Julie’s money, telling her he was paying their bills. But he wasn’t.
“He told me he was paying the bills. He wanted to take care of the bills himself because it was part of his control issues. But then I found out we were $9,000 in debt on the house and he was in debtor’s court,” Julie said.
They were now in threat of losing their house, and things continued to get worse. “He started doing bizarre things, like taking the church van to my ex’s house and threatening him. Then he started calling me ‘bitch’ and ‘whore,'” Julie went on.
There were also incidents of sexual abuse, which was particularly challenging for Julie since she had 3 back surgeries that only exacerbated the pain.
Finally, a chance opportunity at Julie’s Bible college offered her a ray of hope. A speaker visited her class to talk about domestic violence. The speaker talked of ways to leave an abuser. Julie knew she had to make a plan and that she couldn’t let Frank know.
“For three months I planned. On the day I left, I made sure I had a bunch of people with me, so he’d be afraid of the crowd and wouldn’t hurt me,” Julie said. “I left and went to a battered women’s shelter.”
“I don’t have money for an attorney, so I’m legally still stuck in this marriage,” Julie said, eyes downcast and brimming with tears. “If an attorney out there would do the work pro bono, I’d be so grateful. I just want out of this.”
Julie has been physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, and financially abused by Frank. But she’s working to make ends meet in her new life without Frank thanks to the GBM.
“I recently left the battered women’s shelter, and I’m just trying to make it out there with my son. The GBM is helping me with food and I’m really grateful,” Julie said.
The more the GBM is able to help people like Julie, the less likely she will feel like she needs to return to her abuser for security.
If you’d like to make a donation to GBM’s food pantry for people like Julie, click here to make a monetary donation online, or you can drop food off at the GBM’s location, 2304 12th Avenue North Birmingham, AL 35234, Monday through Friday between 8:30am and 4:30pm.