Rebecca Bird will be performing at the Swordfish Grill and Tiki on September 17th for Ladies Sing the Blues. All ticket and raffle proceeds go to Hope Family Services.
There was a time in my life (likely when I was still recovering from an extremely difficult divorce) that I found myself engaged in a relationship with a seemingly wonderful, charming, and yet volatile man.
I began to realize I needed to take a thorough and honest look at my own life and what my future would truly hold if I continued to stay with, and marry, this hot-tempered and unpredictable man. Though from the outside we appeared to be a loving, romantic and passionate couple, the “real” truth was that the arguments which later ensued with increasing frequency often resulted in violent and chaotic “fights”, much to my chagrin and dismay; ESPECIALLY when there were children (often his sons from his previous marriage) present or nearby. The fits of rage which sometimes came out of nowhere even happened in public and once caught the attention of a police officer in a movie theatre parking lot. At this point a STRONG suggestion by the officer came that I ought to “press charges”. (I DID keep the “warning” notice with the # issued on it, “just in case”). The cards, flowers and lavish “gifts” then followed, usually along with profuse apologies and dramatically “sincere”-sounding promises that it would “never happen again”, etc. Sometimes even accompanied by tears and/or manipulative statements such as, “NO ONE will EVER love you as much as I do…” or “Take care of you like I will… “. My feelings of shame, remorse, and lowered self-worth became overwhelming as time went on. Even though I had at one time considered myself an intelligent, highly capable, hard-working, and rather independent woman who had been raised in a respectable, educated, upper-middle class and even religious household, it became harder to shake the feelings of being “trapped”. I felt unable to escape the possessive “chains” of this abusive relationship. I KNEW it would literally take every ounce of courage I could muster to seek help and, with my counseling background, the realization came that I’d definitely need the confidential support and possibly the legal assistance of an agency I’d heard about called “HOPE Family Services”.
Of course, I had attempted to break free of the relationship several times before. (I’ve since learned the average number of times a person tries to leave an abusive relationship is seven!!) Even moving out and beginning my “new life” elsewhere in Bradenton, FL while successfully managing an upscale women’s clothing store on St. Armand’s Circle and assisting OTHER women in their “Recovery” as well at a local “Three-Quarter Way House”. Eventually, though, I accepted a call from him and went back, believing he had “changed” since this time as he promised to get counseling, return to church, ANYTHING if I would go back to him. Unfortunately, I became pregnant and, after a seriously violent episode one Sunday afternoon, I tragically miscarried after nearly bleeding to death in the ambulance. At this point I couldn’t even bring myself to call my OWN family to the hospital to be at my side because the pain ran so deep that I didn’t want them to see me suffering and hurt them all over again.
FINALLY, conceding that I could not do this alone anymore, I contacted HOPE and was given an appointment to go in and meet with an advocate who was extremely helpful and kind in my darkest moments. I was also introduced to an amazing therapist named “Jill” who assisted me most of all throughout the harrowing (yet necessary) process of dealing with the abuse ~ Including acknowledging the stalking, harassment, and subsequent losses which had occurred in my life over the years. HOPE Family Services helped in so many ways: providing me with an advocate so I could follow through with filing a restraining order, eventually obtaining a “permanent injunction” (which was necessary in MY case and also included my mother since she had also been “harassed” and was at risk of harm by this person’s violent temper and obsessive nature). There was a “free” supportive counseling group I was encouraged to attend (and I DID!). I later continued to return to the group and gratefully “gave back” to the other women who attended since it had helped “save my life” and sanity so many times. Hope Services offered toys and gifts for the children every Holiday Season, along with a joyous Holiday dinner for the families who had felt torn from their “homes” and so often had left with just the clothes on their backs. I later helped collect toys and stuffed animals to bring to the center so other families could feel the same “Love” I felt during those first few Holidays without my “boys”. “HOPE Family Services” offers SO many services: from (emergency) shelter, to food and clothing, to counseling (addressing everything from legal to emotional). Thanks to “HOPE” I was able to eventually re-build my life, begin anew, and learn that Hope is real and it does exist in our community!