Board members says agency a life-saver
Of the 40 attending an Alliance Against Family Violence press conference Friday at the courthouse, at least one of them knew firsthand the pangs of violence.
Gail, a board member of the Leavenworth County AAFV, credits the organization with saving her life. She asked that her last name not be used.
"If it wasn't for them, I'd be dead and my kids wouldn't have had a home," Gail said. "He (her ex-husband) might have done something to them, too."
For Gail, the destruction of her first marriage came in the early 1980s. Her husband had come from an abusive family. He could be charming, and he could be violent.
"They all put on their best behavior at first, but after a while they're like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Gail said.
There was alcohol, there were temper tantrums, there was the blame, the humiliation and, of course, the bruises hidden under her shirt sleeves.
She tried counseling, AlAnon, and she approached her church.
"But the church told us, 'you're married for better or worse, try to make it,'" Gail said.
Then she learned about the Alliance Against Family Violence. The people she talked to helped her.
"Just to visit them, to feel like I was sane," Gail said.
Through the alliance, she went through more counseling, read books, attended classes, and her children attended classes.
"They learned it was not their fault, it was not my fault, that it was his issue and he had had to deal with it," Gail said.
Several times Gail and the children moved into a temporary shelter, where the people were patient.
"They were always there for me, they were always there," Gail said.
And finally, after six years of marriage, she divorced her husband.
Today Gail, who is 44, is happily remarried.
She volunteers at AAFV shelter and has served on the board for 20 years.
"I want to try to give back," Gail said, "To give help back to them for what they did for me."
Gail said abusive relationships follow a pattern. There's the tension building stage, the battering incident and then the honeymoon stage where the batterer apologizes and promises never to do it again.
When she left him - on several occasions - it was temporary. And, when they got back together, so was the honeymoon.
Even when they didn't get back together, he'd ignore the restraining order.
Though the first time he knocked her down and kicked her remains a blur, his last act of violence - toward her and their children - is as clear as if it happened yesterday.
Her husband came to her house, shook her violently, and when their son attempted to call for help, her husband pushed him into a bookcase.
"I grabbed the phone," Gail said. "That's when I knew I was done."
Gail said her children now are grown, and she believes the cycle of violence has stopped.
"My son, he'd rather stop a fight, he doesn't like disagreements and fighting," Gail said. "My daughter wouldn't ever put up with anything and she knows I wouldn't let her either."