Alexa’s Story: “I Was a Prisoner in My Own Home.”
Editor’s Note: Today, meet Alexa, a Fairfield mother of three who experienced years of extreme verbal, emotional and financial abuse before she sought our services. Alexa shared her story in hopes that readers would recognize that “abuse happens in beautiful homes behind picket fences.”
Alexa and her ex-husband dated happily for several years before they married and started their family in one of Fairfield’s most desirable neighborhoods. Alexa has two master’s degrees and an impressive professional resume. Her husband had a high six figure job. “On the outside we looked like a perfect suburban family,” Alexa says. Inside their home, things were disturbingly different.
Shortly after the birth of their first child, Alexa says her husband’s behavior changed. He became increasingly abusive and extremely controlling; she was not allowed to leave her home without his permission. To constantly control her whereabouts, he “stalked” her from his office. “He installed nanny cameras to watch me, but we had no nanny,” she says. He attached a GPS system to her car and an alarm system on their front gate to alert him if she left the property. “I was a prisoner in my own home.”
The abuse and control were exacerbated by her husband’s alcoholism, and she withdrew from all social relationships. “There was no being the mystery reader at school,” she says. “I lived in fear of upsetting the apple cart. If things were not perfect there would be this explosion.” Fearful of retaliation, she did not tell her family about what she was experiencing, “I really thought, “Who would believe me?’
Alexa’s abuse impacted her self-esteem so severely that when her husband filed for divorce, she did not see his desire to end their marriage as a relief. “I felt like if I was more perfect, this wouldn’t have happened. That’s how twisted my thinking became.”
Despite their divorce, the abuse and controlling behavior continued. Her now ex-husband did a series of progressively cruel things, including abusing her financially by canceling water and utility service (bills still in his name) and not making court-ordered child support and alimony payments. After a dangerous incident that put her children in peril, Alexa finally involved the police.
When she explained her history of abuse to a Fairfield Police Officer, she was stunned to hear him say, “I believe you.”’ “You have no idea how important and life changing those words were for me. I was able to get the help I needed because of his validation.”
The officer connected Alexa with Det. Kerry Dalling, who specializes in domestic and sexual violence cases. Through her work with Det. Dalling and CFJs team of advocates, Alexa was able to make significant strides toward protecting herself from more abuse and recovering from her trauma.
Working closely with CFJ’s Director of Civil Legal Services & Court Advocacy Angela Schlingheyde, she was referred to a local attorney experienced in family law who was able to represent her Pro Bono on issues related to her child support, alimony, restraining orders and post-divorce litigation. Alexa called this assistance “life-saving” as she lacked the resources to retain her own counsel, but technically did not qualify for legal assistance.
She also joined CFJs support group for domestic violence survivors. “Group taught me there are so many others just like me. I also learned that domestic violence has many forms. People tend to think of Tina Turner, someone who is just beaten and pummeled all the time, but I also learned it can involve the kind of severe mental anguish I experienced.”
Her experiences have also made her more passionate about speaking out in encouragement of others experiencing abuse and CFJ. “When they say, ‘Call someone, tell someone,’ it is because someone is there to help you. I am building myself back up. I lived all my life being a hostage and being afraid to speak and the only thing I’m sorry about is that it took me so long to get the help needed. A year ago I felt helpless and powerless and felt I was the one to blame. Now I know it wasn’t my fault.”