Amber Carroll stood up at a candle light vigil in front of hundreds of people and told her story. She had never spoke about it to a single soul, but had the courage to stand up and let people hear her story. Her experience moved so many people. Read her story below and let her words move you the way they did so many others.
This is my story… Tonight as we remember those who suffered the ultimate cost of DV, those who have lived through it and others that are going through it I hope that my story will give someone the knowledge they are not alone and maybe a sense of hope for the future.
I never really understood the difference between what a victim was and what a “Survivor” is until recently. Had I been asked when i was younger what does being a survivor mean, I would have told you…its when you live through something traumatic and I would have given you the same answer for a victim. Through my experiences now I feel that being a victim is just living life after something traumatic and that being a survivor is coping with a traumatic event and striving for happiness and not just living through moments in your life. Well, 20 years ago I fell victim to date rape. It was on my 18th Birthday, I was drunk for the very first time, passed out and woke up to my boyfriend on top of me taking the one thing I prided myself the most….my virginity. I did exactly what I thought the definition of Survivor was…..I went on just living life through my 20’s. I lived through unhealthy relationships, unhealthy habits, and a bit of trouble until I find myself 28 a single mother of two children, homeless, barely hanging onto a job, and beat down by just living life. I managed to keep a friend or two along the way but personal relationships was definitely not my strong point. Avoiding, hiding, running, those things were more comforting to me then dealing. so here I am no where to go, in a store spending the last few dollars I had when I run into one of those friends that lived through my 20’s with me. We start talking and before I knew it I was telling him me and my kids had no where to go and I did not know what I was going to do. In that moment my life would change in ways I did not expect. He offered his home to us, he offered to help me get back on my feet, he offered to help with the kids, he offered what I thought I had been praying for, for so long….and that was chance to breathe.
I moved me and the kids into his home and things were amazing. I heard the kids laughing for the first time in a long time, I was not crying myself to sleep with worry about how I was going to pay bills, I was not so time constrained that I actually had time to play games with the kids. For the first time in a long time I felt happy! After a while, he asked if we could make this an official relationship and try at being something more than friends. I didn’t have to think about the answer…..of course it was .yes! In that moment, things changed in the worst ways. Mentally he begun tearing me down saying things like …I see a spot in the floor, you have been here all day, it should be clean. You should not hang out with so and so because I seen her with another boyfriend and that is not the example you want the kids to see….He would control me by only giving me only $5 to put in for gas for weeks at a time because there was no reason I needed to go any where except maybe to the school for the kids. I wished I would have known what this meant, I wish I would have seen that his controlling ways was just the beginning of other things to come. But I wanted to make him happy, I wanted someone to love me, who else would take in a woman with two children by different fathers, after all, I am the one with all these failed relationships and it could not be everyone else’s fault all the time especially the only thing they all had in common was me. Well, after breaking me down mentally where nothing of Amber was left….the shoving, slapping…you know, the minor stuff started. The stuff that was all my fault because something was not right or perfect. All that led to the more violent episodes. After a while it became part of our routine and I was numb to the world and the thought that happiness was meant for me. That for what ever reason this was all my life was going to amount to…abuse, violence and not the things I dreamed of as a child….like going to college, laughing until my sides hurt,having a home, peace, independence and happiness.
Months later, I find myself pregnant and thinking things would change. That surely his child would mean something to him and keep him from wanting to harm the person carrying his child. That was a nice thought…one night he erupted because there was number on the caller ID he did not recognize and he swore I was cheating….I tried to explain it was a telemarketer and begged him to call it back. He did not care. He proceeded to release his rage on me while I lay on the floor in a ball trying to protect this precious little baby inside me. I am not sure who called but after a while the police showed up. After a few minutes of making observations and asking questions they took him to jail. He bonded out that day and went to his mom’s house. Within 12 hours he was calling me, sending flowers, swearing it would never happen again and reminding me that I was pregnant with his child and I would have to see him for the rest of my life and that it would be better if we could do it together. I gave in and he was back home within 48 hours of his arrest. This happened a second time, police came, arrested him, and back home he came. I wished one of those times they came to the house one of them would have said to me…you know there is a shelter, there is a safe place…just said something to me. Unfortunately, this was a very small town.. and law enforcement had not been trained in DV situations therefore the resources and information that should have been made available to me was not.
Things continued through my whole pregnancy, and through the days after delivering the baby. I decided after the baby was born that this was not the life for me and the kids and some how I had to make some changes. So I went and got a job. Who would have known that instead of celebrating an extra income for the house that I would suffer for this decision. So I lay in the floor, in a ball, while he kicked and hit until he was exhausted. BUT I kept that job! One month later, I was late returning from work and he met me at the door. I seen the rage in his eyes, and really felt this would be the day that things would go from bad to worse. But I was tired of laying on the floor in a ball…. I got him away from the door, yelled at the kids to leave and that is when he shoved the kids down, took the phone from my hands slung it against the wall and it fell into the crib with the baby, and the attack began. This time, I rolled over biting what ever I could bite, fighting for my life, screaming at the top of my lungs telling the kids to run, find
help….finally, the neighbor called for help. Before I knew it the police kicked in the door and he and I both were in hand cuffs. I couldn’t speak. after separating us and asking me some questions they took the hand cuffs off of me and took him to jail. As they took him away he threatened to kill all of us. As I turn to go back inside here comes a lady that I did not recognize marching up my steps and without question walked right into my home. She introduced herself as a rep from the dept of family and children services and informed me that my home was not safe for children and that she would be removing them from my care. I begged her to please not do this, they were all I had, my baby was a new born, that I had got a job and had money saved to leave him but I needed one more check to get a place of my own….please, please give me a chance. Her response was No. As the four of them left, I laid in the floor not wanting to live then I remembered that as each one of them were born I promised them that I would love and protect them as long as I was breathing and I didn’t plan on not keeping my promise. This was the first moment I remember when I decided to take my life back. I went to work the next day….real weak, bruised, tired but I worked my whole shift. When I left work that night I told my boss I was not feeling well and thought I needed to go have it checked out. I went to the hospital and was rushed to the back. My oxygen level was low, after hours of the ER trying to get my oxygen level up they decided to keep me in the hospital. The next day I went down for a ct scan and I remember the doctor coming in the room with his eyes wide and explained to me that both of my lungs were collapsed and I would be staying for a while. I begged him to just give me medicine and let me go…I had to go to work, I had to keep my job…I couldn’t lose that too. Well, there was no getting out. I called my job, explained in detail what happened over the last couple of days and they promised to hold my position until I was ready to return to work.
I got out of the hospital two weeks later to find the landlord kicked me out and here I was homeless again. I ended up sleeping in a church parking lo every night then go to the public park and use bathroom to clean myself up everyday to go to work. I did that for a couple of weeks until one night I heard a tap on my window. The officer told me I could not stay, I began crying telling him my story and to my surprise he listened. He consoled me until I calmed down and shared with me that there was a shelter that would take me. He then escorted me to this shelter.
I remember walking in the doors, scared, unsure of what to expect and I was greeted by this nice lady with the kindest voice that took me in an office. Asked me some questions, told me the shelter rules and let me know that in the morning I would have an orientation, and would have to see a therapist. I was put in a room with 2 sets of bunk beds, and two twin beds. I woke up the next morning to the smell of eggs, the sound of kids laughing, and the sound of women talking. I came out of the room and immediately was made to feel welcomed by the other women there. I was given something to eat and my list of chores to completed that day. After breakfast, I met with the children’s advocate and legal council…I told them about my children being taken and they helped me every step of the way to get them back. Within two weeks my kids were at the shelter with me, back in my arms. I do not think without the help of the advocate and legal council that would have happened as quickly as it did….I mean, I had things I had to do like a drug screen, parenting class, ending the cycle of DV class, and show proof of therapy sessions but they were beside me helping me fill out paperwork. It was the biggest relief to have someone stand with me and help me through that very had process. We remained at the shelter for three months as we attended group therapy, individual counseling, and kids counseling that was offered at the shelter. I was able to save some money while we stayed there and then I applied for the transitional housing program. I was approved for the program and remained there for a little over a year. In that time, they helped me get furniture, clothing, and household items I would need for a place of my own. Without this help there would have been no way I would have been able to purchase these things on my own and still provide for my children. This generosity, and compassion that was shown to me is what kept me going when I wanted to give up because just living life was hard!
I spent a total of a year and half at the shelter and transitional housing and without those places and all the people involved in making those places run everyday I would not be where I am today. Their work is difficult, they see and hear things that were not meant for people to see and hear, they take in a lot of pain but to only offer love and compassion. So for each of you here tonight that play a role in helping someone through the process of DV you are appreciated. You are people that I think about often and your kindness resonates in me to want to do that for someone else. Your listening and being supportive is the one of reasons I stand tall today. I know your job is difficult and at times you probably ask yourself why….well, next time you ask yourself that please think of me and know that every single smile, kind word, hug is not forgotten. and from the bottom of my heart I thank you.
I left transitional housing and moved into government housing….I was a single parent, working full time, barely making ends meet, lonely, and again just living life. Then my real love story happened and I met the man of my dreams. The one that would stand beside me to love me through all my worst moments, to encourage me to keep fighting and assuring me I can do what ever I set my mind to….with his love and encouragement I began to ask myself questions….am I just living life or am I a survivor???? I was still just living life…..I realized I had to work on me, I had to uncover secrets I never shared, I had to try to repair damaged relationships with the people I loved, I had to face the fact that this really happened to me, I had to learn to forgive even when I didn’t want to, I had to work on my self esteem, I had to fight for me like I have never done before and I had to understand that was ok…..this is not an
easy journey and it requires a continued effort every day but I knew God did not bring me through this just to be another statistic but to use me in a way that could help others so today I stand in front of you completely transparent, exposed and offering nothing but a story so that it may help someone see that its not easy but it is possible.
I am currently a full time Store manager with a non-profit organization and have been employed there for several years. I have three beautiful children that I love more than there are words to describe and an amazing husband that completes me and shows me daily what love is supposed to look and feel like, I have a home, we laugh till our sides hurt, each day I work towards making it better than yesterday and most days happiness is seen more often then not So….. I stand here today with my shoulders back, my chin up and proud to say that I quit just living life and today I am a SURVIVOR!