By Elizabeth Billingsley
My name is Elizabeth Billingsley. I am an RN in Oklahoma City and a writer. I want to tell you my story. I met a wonderful man named Jeff in October 2009. We connected instantly and became fast friends. Friendship turned into romance three months later and the rest was history. We got engaged at the Sears Tower in Chicago in August 2010.
When he berated me for an entire hour over a photo I took of him in late 2010, I knew that I had a problem. Yet, I chose to ignore the sirens going off in my head. There were other red flags during our engagement and I ignored those too. I chose to believe I could love him through it and I gave him many excuses. We married in May 2011 and the excuses continued. The emotional and verbal abuse as well as intimidation tactics also continued, in fact they worsened. He had a pattern. About every three weeks, he’d be set off by any number of things. A year and a half into our marriage, in October 2013, he moved past verbal abuse and emotional abuse and hit me for the first time over a simple question I asked. Again, I made another excuse after he left for work that night. I remember crying myself to sleep and waking up the next day telling myself everything will be okay. I knew deep down inside he would hit me again, it was just a matter of time.
The emotional and verbal meltdowns continued after he hit me with clocklike precision, every three weeks. I was dealing with two people, the man and his monster. There would be several times between October 2013 and May 2014 that he would become aggressive, throwing things and hitting things or the wall. His favorite thing to do was knock over our wedding pictures. I say that with much sarcasm. Interestingly enough, he never hit me during this time. I attribute that to telling him he would go to jail and I would tell everyone about what he was doing. He was an ex-cop, so jail would not have suited him and I believe he knew it. He was also working for the OKC Police Department Dispatch, so he could not afford to look bad to his co-workers.
Three days before our anniversary in May 2014, he had the last meltdown I was going to endure. He was financially irresponsible and got angry with me when a credit card charge bounced because the card was maxed out. I had given up on keeping up because you simply couldn’t manage his spending. In reality, he did not care about our finances, he never had. I packed my suitcase and left in my car. I have never seen a person so confused by a response as he was that night. He actually believe he would see me the next morning.
I broke my silence against the abuse and violence I endured from my husband that same evening to my stunned parents. I have to give them credit, they handled it well, but they honestly did not know what to think. I remained separated from my husband for nearly four weeks. It was the hardest four weeks in my life. He harassed me and my parents. I tried to meet him twice to get him to agree to go to counseling with me and I could never get a word in to even ask him to go. Meanwhile, he called everyone he knew looking for sympathy. I saw him alive for the last time on May 27, 2014, the second and last time I met him to ask him to get help.
On June 10, 2014, my husband chose to take his life. Had I been in that house that night, he would have taken my life, too. I will never forget this as long as I live. A conversation I had with the detective the next day spoke to this sad fact. Just as he had loved knocking our wedding pictures over, he took our favorite wedding picture off the wall and fired one bullet into his face and one into mine. This is called killing in abstention–in other words, an individual can’t kill you in person so I’ll pretend you are dead some other way. I look at it this way, I escaped evil that night by not being there. I could not help my husband anymore, only Jesus could and he would not take his problem to the One who could heal him. As many of you know, many domestic violence situations end in murder/suicides. I implore you right now, if someone is making those kinds of threats to you get out while you still have time. You can’t negotiate with that kind of evil.
I tell you my story because I know that several of you reading this have faced the same evil and have lived to tell about it just as I have. Some of you may still be dealing with your abuser in one way or the other. I want to remind you that their actions are not your fault, nor are you responsible for their lives or their decisions–even those that turn to death as means to get the last word.
I am so thankful that I can share my story with you because there is hope after abuse. I am so thankful to have an organization like Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence that gives those of us who have survived abuse a voice once again. Not only does BTS give us a voice, they give us place to heal and a place for our children to heal. Men and women nationwide can find the support they need at BTS, whether it be through the hotline, Sisters Retreats, scholarships, the important news articles and advocacy information they provide, or the activities and assistance provided to their children such as Holidays of Hope (a personal favorite) or the Angel Family Retreats. BTS is not just another domestic violence awareness organization as some might believe (yes someone actually said that to me); it is an organization run by those who want to see others not only survive, but thrive in their new lives. This is the fundamental reason why I support BTS–they aren’t just interested in surviving, they are interested in thriving. They want men, women and children to heal and then thrive. They want to see new chapters written in the lives of everyone they touch. What better reason is there to partner with an organization that wants to see people move from darkness into light and life? I can’t think of one.
I hope my story will give you a little glimpse into where I have come from. If you are reading this and are still in an abusive situation, may it give you the courage to leave and start a new life. You are not alone. I also hope you will consider supporting BTS in their fight to speak up, speak out and be the voice for those who have no voice–until there is no more violence and they are all free!
With much love,