It’s Independence Day — the day Americans celebrate our national declaration of freedom from abuse.
This is a Sisterhood Story…
I was trying to decide whether or not to leave.
I struggled with whether or not leaving was wrong.
I struggled with fear of what might happen.
Being a bit of a political science and American history nerd, I decided to borrow courage from the founding fathers of the United States of America. When they found it necessary to declare their separation from Great Britain, they explained all the reasons they found such an extreme move necessary in the famous document known as the Declaration of Independence.
So I drafted my own personal Declaration of Independence, borrowing their language and inspiration.
That warm spring morning, I was parked down the block from my house, waiting for my husband to be served by the police so that I could move forward with my battle plans. I started to draft a post which I intended for a private support group for women like me, containing my “Declaration.”
“I know that a declaration like this marks the start of WAR. I can only pray to God that the lives of neither me nor my children, or anyone else, be lost in the coming battles. But I will not borrow tomorrow’s troubles for today. Today, I sound the bells of liberty. Let freedom ring! It’s my independence day, ladies!”
A few minutes later, I heard the sirens that signaled things would forever be different than I had imagined.
Instead of starting a war that morning, I became a widow. Moments after being served, my husband took his own life.
The framework of my journey to freedom was permanently shifted. I continue to struggle immensely with my own grief, the grief of my children, and the general fallout from my husband’s death.
Maybe you’ll think it’s a bit cheesy… But it gave me strength to proceed with the restraining order and pursue separation.
So here it is:
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the marital ties that have connected them to another, and to assume among the people of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of others, an enduring empathy for the person to whom they were bound, and the need for clarity in their own minds, may require that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“I hold these truths to be absolute, that all persons are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain fundamental Rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, marriage is instituted between two people, deriving its meaning, purpose, and strength from the complete and enthusiastic consent of both parties.
“Whenever any relationship becomes destructive of even one of these ends, it is the right of either party to alter or abolish the relationship, and to establish a new life, laying the foundation of that new life on these principles, and organizing that life in such a way as seems most likely to achieve safety and happiness.
“Prudence indeed will dictate that relationships long established should not be changed for trivial or fleeting causes, and accordingly, my experience and that of many others shows that people are more inclined to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the familiar things to which they are accustomed. But when such a long and repeated train of various abuses and coercive control has torn down their dignity and reduced them to a shadow of themselves, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off the chains of such a relationship, and to establish protections for their future security.
“Such has been my patient sufferance, waiting, hoping with each abuse, that the next time will bring the real and promised change, yet finding the process repeating every few months… for years. Such is the necessity which constrains me to alter my marriage. The history of my husband is a history of repeated abuses – both physical and psychological, irrational jealousies, and coercive, controlling behaviors – all having as their direct object the establishment of my husband’s will and desires in place of my own.
“To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. [My list of abuses is redacted here, a list of everything that went into my restraining order, physical abuse, threats, controlling and coercive behaviors and more.]
“At every stage of these oppressions I have begged him to seek help, to take action for real change. My repeated requests have been answered with refusals, until I finally begin to take action to leave, then a half-hearted attempt is made at change — only until I retract my actions toward leaving, then the efforts are quickly abandoned and my patience and hope is answered by repeated injury.
“A husband whose character is thus marked by every act which may define an abusive and controlling man is unfit to be the partner of a free woman. Nor have I neglected our extended family and friends. I have warned them of his actions and appealed to their senses of empathy for both of us, to disavow these abuses that would inevitably interrupt our connection and communication. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice. I must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold my husband and our extended family as I hold all other persons: friends in peace, but enemies in war.
“I therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, that I am, and of right ought to be, a free and independent person, absolved from all family allegiances and connections to between myself and my spouse, and that as a free and independent person I have complete power both to fight and to make peace, communicate and form alliances with others, and do all the other things which free and independent people do.
“In support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, I pledge my life, my financial security, and my sacred honor.”
Read more #SisterhoodStories here.
A Survivor’s Declaration of Independence was written by a woman in the abuse recovery support group I provide for survivors, and is published anonymously with her permission.