By Karen Rae Elkins
Sometimes the anticipation of an event is worse than the actual event, Eight empty pages put me in a state of dread. They laid on the floor next to me, staring back at me in black and white. The Evidentiary Will and Abuse Affidavit seemed like a curse, a black cloud hanging over my life. Did I really want to mull over a past with knowledge that the document before me could be used in the future? Not only no, but Hell-O'-No! The only silver lining in this black cloud would be that someone hell bent on ending my life in one way or another would spend time in jail for his actions. If he was going to plot and carry out the end of my life, I'm going to have my say, "the last word" if you want to put it that way.
I thought the Will would damage my life. As a former abused women, I'm all about damage control. I've come so far down the road from abuse to re-visit the past. My schedule was full. I was in the middle of preparing for my first fishing event that would be 189 men and me. I didn't have time to be bothered with recovery time that I was sure to need after recalling the abuse on film. After all, the truth sometimes hurts.
Violence is a hard pill to swallow. I rationalized every reason to not complete the affidavit. I contemplated just dropping out, giving up, just walking out the door and never coming back. I wanted to run, run away. I was not safe. The worst choice I could make would be to minimized the present danger. I did that too. I told myself I could get out of any situation. I just needed to be more aware of my surroundings, right? Wrong. This is the fatal mistake those who end up on CNN or FOX News make or worse, the ones who don't make the news.
Angry does not begin to touch the fire and pure disgust I felt. To my surprise I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable asking for help. I am a confident woman, and yet the uneasy feelings crept up on me. Abuse never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you have it all going on, you discover yet another battle to be won.
I had to gather my evidence for the Will and Abuse Affidavit. I pulled the documents from past offenses from the folder. Most keep their documents in a safe place. I keep my evidence of abuse under my bed for easy access. I had not added to the folder since February of 2010. I had Sixteen precious weeks of peace.
I double clicked to open the DV folder on my computer. It stores a mixture of my life and articles written by others, it stores media evidence, photographs, written words, and sometimes my deepest thoughts. I needed a picture of the potential suspect. I went through hours of family photos to finally find one photo of him that I had not deleted.
Next I went to my journals. Most fishermen keep records of the lakes they visit. True to that nature, I have some great documentation mixed with the battles I've faced off the water. I had to put to pen several examples of abuse for the affidavit. The journal made it easy to recall dates and events. I decided to tear out three pages from my journal to add to the evidence and present them in the Will. These three pages probably hurt more than any fist. I couldn't get past the first paragraph, so I just stopped. Sure, it was an important day to remember. However, the memories were tearing me apart word by word.
I just didn't want to start filling in the blanks from the Affidavit. It was a calling I wasn't ready to answer, a major test. I could ace the test or fail to complete. I wanted to erase my past. I blamed myself. I had made bad decisions. What about my family? Once I started writing I took breaks to talk with friends. Anything to distract me from the task at hand was a welcome. The first couple of pages were the legals. I, being of sound mind, sign this document and initial each page in front of two witnesses and a notary. I would complete this section upon filling out the following pages.
The next page was pretty standard, our names, our social security numbers, the date of our marriage, our children. Our place of employment.
The meat and potatoes of the Affidavit was next. I have prepared this document in the event something happens to me. I am ..... a victim of domestic violence. I used my journals to recall the dates. I briefly stated examples of the violence I've taken from him starting with the day he fractured my face and ending with the latest event. I included violence he dealt to others. I ended the statement with the most recent event.
I was happy to be back to the legal evidence. I filled the blanks of Police Reports, Protection Orders, Divorce Decree, and weapons he is known to own. Then it gets pretty personal concerning my abuser. Does he take medications. Is he in treatment for any reason. Does he use illegal drugs or have a drinking problem. I would have never thought to include such important information. I met two witnesses in front of a notary, everyone signed the legal document and I was off to the church the final requirement to be included in the affidavit.
When you are on the firing line, just shoot. So it was lights, camera, action, shoot. One of the local churches agreed to film my testimony. Standing in front of the camera, I held the Affidavit up. I stated that the document had been witnessed and signed by a notary. Then I went page by page, just reading my statement. From start to finish it was a mere 6 minutes. I didn't miss a beat. I thanked the church and headed to work. The release I felt was wonderful. The dread I felt was my battle. What he meant for evil, I have used for good. I've given copies of my Will to two trusted friends and it will be added to a library of the affidavits of women who have championed the task of completing there story of abuse.
You see, before I prepared the affidavit, I had a bad fishing tournament. I tried to focus on fish, but it just didn't happen. It was that dark cloud... It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. I ripped the trolling motor off the boat, weathered a bad storm and only caught one fish, be it a big fish, but just couldn't connect a hook with a fish. Even so, I held my head high because nothing stopped me from breaking new ground in the area of abuse and in fishing. I'm in the league of fishermen, literally. I say with confidence that I wouldn't change a thing even if I could. Why? After it was all said and done, affidavit complete, I went back to the lake again to fish yet another tournament. I caught my share of fish and more big fish! My hand literally looked like a brillo pad from bite marks. I could do no wrong. It was amazing. I caught all of my fish on one rod, the purple and white rod dedicated to victims of abuse. It's inscribed with the words fish steady. I got rid of the black cloud.
Abuse is complicated, demanding, and often leads to more questions than answers until you complete the affidavit. It's a strategy to be included in your fight. Not only is is documentation should anything potentially happen to you, It is, "Six minutes to freedom".
Until next time, fish steady my friends, and I will do the same. much love your way. karen
Editors Note: Please see the re-enactment of the video testimony used in preparing the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit. If you are leaving a violent relationship you need to have the safety plan outlined in the book by Susan Murphy-Milano, "Time's Up: A Guide on How to Leave an Abusive and Stalking Relationship."
Too many wait too long! Don't wait, just do it!