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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Operation escape

Blurb: Six years ago, on July 22nd, I made the decision to leave
my abusive husband. That was only the first step. I was ready to
go, but how would I manage to escape?

You could call this part two of a terrible and inspirational life
story. On july 22nd, 2006, I decided it was time to leave my
abusive husband for the sake of my five-year-old son. However, I
didn't actually leave until August 3rd. The need for extreme
caution and precise detail delayed my departure. I would only
have one chance to do this. There would be no room for errors.

Those 12 days were agonizing. I had finally realized I needed to
get out of the marriage. I had set the plan in motion. But for
almost two weeks, I was trapped in that house. In addition, I had
to pre-teen like nothing was happening. It was a chaotic time for
me. I couldn't sleep. I could barely make it through each day.
Inside, I was a mess of emotions. Yet, I acted as if nothing had
changed. At no point could I let the secret betray me. My life
depended on my ability to hide the truth.

To make matters worse, I had no clue what was transpiring outside
of my home. I had sent an email to my mother, begging for help.
She replied, "It's about time." That was all the communication we
had on the subject. We didn't dare say more. My husband, Greg,
controlled our email server. He had complete access to all
incoming and outgoing messages. I couldn't risk him learning
about the plan.

So, I was left in the dark. I knew plans were being made. I
didn't know what they were. I didn't know who was involved. I
didn't know when it would take place. I was frantic to get out
and desperate for knowledge.

Each day dragged on. I took care of Joseph. We played together,
as always. I tried to think of special treats and activities to
make him happy. I knew his life was about to be turn

I cried when Greg hurt me. I accepted his sexual advances, even
though his touch made me want to scream. Every night, I lay awake
beside the monster who abused me. I wondered if the torment would
ever end.

Behind the scene, unknown to me, was a bustle of activity. My
parents were in contact with several lawyers and a family friend
who worked for the police. My own online friends and home
assistant were also involved. Even people within the local
deaf-blind community knew what was going on and were trying to
help. They had devised various schemes, as if developing a war
mission. They called it "Operation Escape."

Under no circumstances could Greg know I was leaving until Joseph
and I were safely away. We could not risk a confrontation. He
could beat me, even kill me. He could flee with Joseph and carry
out his threat that I would never see my son again.

We also had to worry about the law. It's not a wise idea to
remove a child from his home state. The court in Maryland could
rule that I had no right to take Joseph. They could force me to
return with him or turn him over to his father. My parents and
supporters reviewed the details again and again. There would be
only one shot. If we made a single mistake, all could be lost.

I finally learned about the plan on July 31st. My home assistant
came for her once a month session to help me with appointments,
phone calls and opening mail. Sarah was, of course, working with
my parents to help me escape. She had been assisting me for about
a year. For her to come on that Monday would not alert Greg. It
was the safest way to let me know what was going on.

Sarah took me to pick up my leg braces from the repair shop. It
was the kind of thing she usually did. After, we went to Bob
Evans for lunch. The hard part would be talking without Joseph
overhearing anything important. Sarah was ready for that. She
brought her pre-teen aged daughter along to keep Joseph busy.
While the children happily sat at the bar to eat their lunch,
Sarah and I were able to speak freely at a table.

I learned that "operation Escape" would occur on Thursday, August
3rd. My parents and a friend were driving from Ohio on Wednesday
with two vans. They would stay overnight at a hotel. Once Greg
left for work, they would come to rescue Joseph and I.

Using a speaker phone, I was able to ask my father questions.
Sarah signed into my hands to interpret for him. After the call,
Sarah and I made a list of everything I wanted to take with me.
She would type it up and send it to my parents. Each person
helping with the move would have a copy.

Once back at home, I began counting down the days to my freedom.
I counted how many meals were left to be eaten together. I
counted down the hours the minutes. Time seemed to pass so
slowly. I was both excited and terrified.
I couldn't pack. That would give it away. Instead, I began to
clean and organize. I had everything as ready as I could.

Fear filled my heart when I couldn't find the key to my
parents' house. It was on a key ring that would identify to
Greg that it was their key. If I didn't find that key, they
would have to change their locks. I began emptying drawers
and cabinets as quietly as possible. I had a story ready
about what I was looking for. But Greg never noticed what I
was doing. I felt so relieved when I found the key.

On Wednesday night, we went to McDonalds for dinner. While Joseph
played in the kid's area, Greg made crude sexual jokes and got
angry with me because I hadn't written his new resume. I promised
to do it the next day. I knew it was a promise I wouldn't keep. I
didn't care. I concentrated on my count downs. I would not let
myself fall apart.

I almost lost it over the hamburger buns. On the way home, we
stopped at the store to get bread so I could pack Greg's lunch.
As I picked up the bread to make his sandwich, I noticed he had
also bought a pack of buns. I realized they were for Thursday
night's dinner... a dinner that would never happen. I was
overcome with sadness at the thought of a family dinner that
would never be.

August 3rd finally arrived. Greg got up that morning with
no idea of what was going to happen. He kissed me good-bye
as I lay in bed. I said "Have a good day." I knew I'd never
be saying that to him again. I pretended to go back to
sleep, and I waited.

When I knew he was gone, I got Joseph up and dressed. I told
Joseph we had a special visitor coming. I didn't want to tell him
more or do anything else until my parents arrived. I was afraid
Greg might come back.

My parents, a family friend, Sarah and her son all came to help
with the move. It was frantic and messy. We didn't try to keep
the house nice and neat. We didn't have time for that. All I
could do was sit on the couch as the others raced about around
me. I was shaking with fear. I didn't know if I had the strength
to go through with this.

We had only two mini vans. I couldn't take everything. We focused
on clothes, braille books, my adaptive technology and special
mementos. We got Joseph's bike and some of the toys he picked
out. Most of his books, toys and stuffed animals had to be left
behind. I lost many of my possessions, as well. That didn't
matter. They were just things. We could replace them later.

The house was left in utter disarray.. Greg would know something
was wrong the second he walked through the door. I had taped a
lawyer's business card to his computer monitor and left him an
email to explain why I was leaving. I warned him not to come
after us. I was ready to call the police if he did. I wanted him
to know how serious I was. There would be no going back. It was

We set off as fast as we could. Speed was crucial, but we moved
slowly. Our two vehicles were filled to the brink with four
adults, a child, a dog and our belongings. The temperature was
over 100 degrees. We had an eight hour drive to make it to Ohio.
We estimated that we had a four hour lead on Greg. But he would
be in a faster car without children, dogs and luggage to slow
him down.

At last, we arrived at my parents' house. It was raining. We
needed to get the vans unloaded into the garage. My mother's car
was stalled in there. We had to jump the engine to get it out of
the way. It seemed like everything was taking too long.

Joseph was restless after the long trip. He rode his bike in the
rain while my brother watched him closely. The police and
neighbors all knew what was happening. Everyone was looking out
for signs of trouble.

I waited inside, still in shock and terrified. I was imagining ho
furious Greg must b. Three words kept repeating through my mind.
"He has guns. he has guns." I truly believed my life was in

I didn't know what to do. I was too scared to think. Joseph
sensed the tension and was worried too. We decided to go to a
women's shelter. It was the only way to ensure our safety. My
mother came along, as well. I needed her for communication and
mental support.

At the safe house, I was considered high risk. Still, they were
equipped to protect us. Joseph laughed and played with the other
kids. My mother tried to calm down. I just sat there. I could not
talk. I could not read. I could do nothing but sit. I was truly
paralyzed with fear. I did not sleep again that night.

It was, indeed, the most frightening day of my life. It was also
the start of my freedom. I wasn't ready to understand or enjoy
that yet. It would be a long time before I felt safe and secure.
One thing is clear, on August 3rd, 2006, I found my strength and
did what I had to do. Afraid or not, I persevered. The rest would
happen little by little. One small step at a time.

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