Today we are continuing with Tiffany’s story today. If you missed part one, here you go.
Tiffany is a survivor of domestic violence, but she knows she is much more than that. She is still learning what those things are through talk therapy and connecting with the outdoors.
She now lives in the lush Willamette Valley of Oregon with her two spunky teenage children, her husband, and their Australian Shepard, Lincoln. They farm on the family farm, growing grass seed, wheat, and hazelnuts. You can follow her farm and life adventures on Instagram and twitter. She also posts collaboratively on It’s Momsense.
Do you think you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence? Contact The National Hotline for Domestic Violence athttp://www.thehotline.org/ or call at 1-800-799-SAFE.
After we were married, things got worse. He pressured me into having children. He couldn’t keep a job but said it was my fault because he had to stay home with sick babies sometimes, since I worked too. He started using drugs again, hiding it from me, telling me I was getting neurotic when I questioned him. Getting caught using, he blamed me for not being supportive, for being too difficult to live with. He claimed that if I was just a better person, he wouldn’t feel the need to use.
He told me I was fat and he didn’t want to make love to me. He made me believe that no one would want an ugly single mother, so I better just stay with him since no one else would ever love me. He started to get physical. He threatened me with a gun and then denied that it ever happened. He tried to make me believe things happened that really didn’t, like a discussion or an event. Then he would tell me that I was losing it. He even told me that I had it good compared to a lot of women because he did dishes and laundry. He used his parents and our friends to manipulate me. Some of them corroborated his lies that he told about his past, some helped him in new lies. I didn’t know who I could trust. I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing anymore. I couldn’t trust my own judgement. I hated myself. He was gaslighting me.
One day I was in the nurse midwives’ office. I saw a pamphlet that asked if you were happy in your relationship. I picked it up and read the whole thing from front to back two times. I found I was holding my breath the whole time I read. It was about domestic violence. I shoved in way down into the bottom of my purse. But then I knew.
I had a good, brave friend named Riley that reached out to me during that time. After a day at our house, she told me she couldn’t come over anymore because it was too hard to see him abusing me. She said she loved me and would continue our friendship as long as I wanted, but she refused to be around Tom. She was the only one of my friends that talked to me about it, and she was right.
I finally left, moving back home. The “love” endorphins were finally gone. I was terrified that he would kill me, or take my children away in a custody battle, but I knew whatever was in my and the girls’ future had to be better. I had my own apartment for once, and a job that I enjoyed. My parents helped me with childcare and emotional support. I went to group sessions at the local women’s shelter and I had a personal counselor for myself and the girls. I went to the Department of Human Services and asked for assistance. I wanted to make sure that I had no reason to go back. Eventually, I started to make a few new friends. I kept a few of the greatest ones in the divorce! And then I met my best friend, my current husband.
Things weren’t normal and still aren’t as far as custody goes. I spent a lot of time and money to trying to do the best thing for the girls. It was a long, hard war. And it wasn’t a win, because the girls had to experience it. They had to see us fight over them no matter how hard I tried to hide it, they saw their dad jump from relationship to relationship, see him abusing other women, experience knowing that he was arrested for dealing and using drugs. They don’t get to grow up with a healthy father. They are the ones that really lose, no matter what the custody outcome. But I knew I had to model boundaries, respect, and what healthy relationships looked like, so I had to fight.
One of the worst things was realizing that I could have ended the abuse before it even started, but I didn’t know what to look for.
Things like being overly charming, pushing for a close relationship too fast, irrational jealousy, grandiose sense of self, controlling finances or insisting on “taking care of you”, the need to isolate you from friends and family early on in courtship, either physically or by driving emotional wedges. These were all signs that would have helped me to see what was going on, but I didn’t even know what to look for.
Men like Tom have a target women. Someone loving, kind, with a strong sense of loyalty. Sometimes they like to use our faith as a weapon, sometimes they use our past mistakes. They even target women who have been abused in the past, because who would believe it wasn’t their fault or that they didn’t “like that kind of thing” since it has happened before. Compassionate women who are smart are their favorites to abuse because it makes them feel more powerful. Please note that abuse does happen to all genders, all sexual orientations, all socio-economic levels, and all races. Rich and poor, Harvard grads and sex workers, men, women, or anyone on the gender scale. There is no typical victim of this disease.
I wish I could say to you that I am glad that I met Tom because my life wouldn’t be what it is today. And I do SO MUCH LOVE TODAY! Some days, I really feel that is true. And other days I wish it were all a garish nightmare that I could whisk away with a fresh cup of morning coffee. I can say that I learned a lot about myself that I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise, and there is gratefulness for that.
When I think back to that gold engagement ring on that beautiful spring day and what I had imagined happened to it, I think it was really my soul getting crushed to beyond unrecognizable. I was the diamonds and gold being destroyed by the cement truck named Tom. But did you know that you can’t completely destroy anything? That all things just change their state or break down to basic elements? That’s what I like to think about my time with Tom. He might have crushed me and made me unrecognizable from my former self, but I got to decide how my change manifests itself.
I have been married for over 7 years to a man that has helped me to grow more in those years, than I think I have my whole life. I have seen my smart and funny daughters grow up to be amazing and wise-for- their-years teenagers. I have learned to drive all manner of farm equipment and find that I love it! Finding that I can do things that I never knew I could. We have a cozy house on the farm, where I feel safe and loved. I continually get to learn new things about myself and the world. And I know that I did these things. I made these life choices to get to the place I am today. I am still changing form, I am still seeing what elements I might have. I don’t know what I will end up being, but I know that only I will decide what that looks likes from here on out.
Thank you so much Tiffany! You are a brave soul, and I hope your story helps many other women. It’s so similar to mine, it’s eery.