A survivor’s story and the community that helped her

South Central UP

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WJMN) – The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, but people like Amanda Johnson and organizations like The Caring House don’t just limit the awareness to 31 days out of the year.

“Well, I was in a pretty traumatic relationship,” Amanda Johnson, a domestic violence survivor said. “And there was one point where I had enough and I walked away and I realized that I had to get help. So I came to The Caring House.”

For many men and women, this is a scene that is all too familiar.

“There’s a lot of reasons people don’t leave, it sounds so easy just to leave for somebody living in domestic violence, it’s not that easy to leave,” Cheryl O’Neil, the Executive Director of The Caring House said.

October means more than awareness and a purple ribbon to Johnson, this month, she celebrates freedom, thanks to The Caring House

“A lot of victims say, ‘I’m going to give them one more chance, I can fix him or her or I could change him or her in any situation’ My advice is don’t wait,” Johnson said. “Do not wait. If your gut is telling you or if your motherly or fatherly instinct is telling you that this is wrong and you’re being put in a position you shouldn’t be in. Don’t wait to get help…do it immediately.”

Under the umbrella of abuse, there are three main reasons people stay in those types of relationships.

Reason number one: Love

“Many times we hear people say ‘You know well why don’t you just leave?’ Well, they don’t leave because of love” O’Neil said. “The batterer isn’t bad all the time. Battered people will take on the responsibilities for this themselves.

Reason number two: Change

“They think they’re going to change them. They think the other person is going to change, or they can change them, or if they change themselves it’s going to be okay,” O’Neil said.

Reason number three: Fear

“Then of course comes a fear, because many times, leaving creates more lethality than staying,” O’Neil said.

From shelter, to help when it comes to legal issues and even just a hand to hold along the way, places like The Caring House are essential for men and women in these relationships to get the help that they need.

“These resources are so, so desperately needed, and there was a time where battered men and women movements had a fight the fight by themselves, and of course, nobody can do that, we need the whole community to rally around,” O’Neil said.

As a way to include the community in support, this month, The Caring House will be hosting a ‘Break the Silence’ event on October 19.

“We have ambulances and all of us in the public following with horns and sirens blaring to break the silence,” O’Neil said. “That’s the message we want to get out. We have to break the silence and the stigma surrounding domestic violence. We can’t keep it covered up, it’s happening.”

Each year The Caring House places crosses out to represent the lives lost in Michigan to domestic violence. Johnson says without a place like The Caring House, she is convinced she and her family would have crosses out in their honor.

“My message I want to give out to everybody is seek help in any way possible to get out of any kind of situation that is harmful towards your kids or even for yourself,” Johnson said. “Seek help immediately, because that was the best thing that I’ve ever done. If I didn’t seek help, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here, to this day or my family.”

“Amanda is so strong that she could sit here and tell her story,” O’Neil said. “She is a really strong woman who has developed a wonderful life for her children, and for herself. I think she should be a role model for all survivors that she is your future.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence you can contact The Caring House crisis line at (906) 774-1112 or click here.

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