Thank You

Thank you Esta Soler. Thank you Frances Perkins. Thank You Susan B. Anthony. Thank you to the thousands of advocates who made the United States of America what it is today. It certainly isn’t perfect, but I’m a living and thankful example of what you spoke so loudly and proudly about.

Thank you for advocating for my ability to live a peaceful life. I’m a woman. I’m a domestic violence survivor. And I did it with the help of my community – a community that you transformed.

Susan – without your advocacy in women’s suffrage our voices would never have been heard. You showed history that we mattered. You proved that our perspective was invaluable.

Frances – You fought for our safety in the workplace. You fought for our jobs. You were the right-hand woman to the POTUS. You were brilliant and paved the way for others.

Esta – You shined a bright light in a dark corner. Because of you, organizations like Safe Futures exist. Because of them, I had around the clock access to the information that saved my life.

I was never beaten. I was never bloodied. But I was abused. I left. That statement alone would have Esta, Frances, Susan, and their cohorts cheering. I left. I was able to get out. I didn’t do it on my own. If it had been up to me alone, I’d have never left. But I sought help, something that wasn’t always so easily accessible.

It all began when an emaciated version of myself scrolled through the Psychology Today website. I needed help. I knew it had to be my fault he acted this way. I knew I had to learn how to change myself if I wanted to live a more peaceful life. After reading dozens of profiles, I found my girl. She loved yoga, had an Italian lineage, was less than five miles away, and worked with Veterans. I called her and we set our first appointment.

I needed help changing my behavior. I needed someone to teach me how to act so I wouldn’t have to face his outbursts. I wanted to help him but couldn’t figure out how. I didn’t want my children to see it anymore. At ages three and one, I knew their exposure to this behavior was harmful. What can I do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? She suggested I reach out to Safe Futures.

What? A battered women’s shelter? She must not understand the dynamic. He’s never laid his hands on me – except that one head-butting incident, but that was years ago.

As you may have guessed, I’m a people-pleaser. And I did what most people-pleasers would’ve done, I made an appointment so I could tell my therapist I did my homework. I had a closed mind when I walked through the door. I didn’t need this type of help. They had no idea what I was going through. But I sat through the first meeting and took a nice big information packet home, along with the recommendation to read a book, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.

Thank you, Lundy. I had no idea what I was experiencing until I read your book. You understood my situation in a way I hadn’t. You opened my eyes to exactly what was happening. You made me realize it wasn’t my fault. And even if I could change myself, it wouldn’t resolve the conflict.

I immediately called Safe Futures and left a message for my counselor. I knew I had to have another conversation with her now that my eyes were opened. I had five more sessions after that. From those sessions, I learned it’s more dangerous to leave an abusive relationship than it is to be in one. I had to stand face-to-face with fear, danger, and risk. If I wanted a chance at raising my babies in a safe and stable environment, I had to be courageous.

And I was. There have been many twists and turns, but I’m now beginning to see the fruits of my struggle. I’m a university-educated female. I have a well-paying, reliable, and graciously flexible job. I bought my own home. I practice meditation and yoga to heal some of my inner wounds. I practice gratitude. I visit my therapist monthly. I’ve gained back the thirty pounds I’d lost from toxic stress – my body’s reaction to living in a constant state of fear. I’ve learned how to love myself. And the peace is priceless.

Thank you to all the advocates that came before me for making this possible. If I couldn’t work and support myself, I couldn’t have left. If I didn’t have family members and friends who stood up next to me when I was falling, I’d still be down.  If I didn’t have a therapist as knowledgeable on domestic violence, I’d still be trying to change myself. If I didn’t have Safe Futures, I’d have been a victim to some scary statistics.

I’m here today because of all the people who came before me and all the people who stood by me. Thank you. Thank you for my second chance.

I promise I’ll make good use of it.


JoAnna Bennett
JoAnna Bennett
Mother, Marketer, Writer, and Reader. I’m a mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life.

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  1. JoAnna. Powerful story. I discovered the hardest decision is taking the first step. Growing up Catholic, it was drummed into us that you NEVER leave or divorce. You may be miserable, but you stay together for the family, for the children. I saw many situations where staying together did more damage to the children. Staying in a toxic environment scars children. Many grow up and find themselves in the same type of toxic relationship since that is all they know. As difficult as it is being a single parent it is better than subjecting yourself and your children to a dysfunctional and unhappy life.

    • Thank you Frank! I couldn’t agree more. The more trips around the sun I take, the more I realize that my biggest mistakes were my best teaching moments. If we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them, we are losing a chance to grow and be better.

      I used to think that the increasing divorce rate was a showing societal decay. From this side of the fence, I think it means the opposite. People are making mistakes and hopefully some can learn from them and move forward with their life in a more positive way.

  2. Joanna — So powerful: “I needed help changing my behavior. I needed someone to teach me how to act so I wouldn’t have to face his outbursts.” My guess is that most women in your situation have tried and tried to change “him,” but as you point out, the real courage is changing ones self. What a powerful lesson, thank you. Brava to you!

  3. JoAnna, thank you for sharing this inspiring and beautiful story with us. You are, without a doubt, a strong and resilient person. I can’t imagine the courage it must have taken to remove yourself and your children from the situation you faced. But, as your story so eloquently demonstrates, you found happiness and a new chapter on the other side. You are an inspiration to many. Keep doing what you are doing, JoAnna.

  4. Thank you! Thank YOU! THANK YOU! for this inspiring and beautiful essay which resonates completely with my heart, mind, body, and soul, JoAnna! I’m right with you in that waking up process to realizing what was mine, what was another…that no matter how much I grew and changed from the inside out I could not ever alter other people’s pain or “tortured soul” ways of interacting with me. And yes, a huge thank you to all those who spoke out and stood up, who bravely broke the silence. In my case, I’m deeply grateful to the daughter of Joan Crawford who was one of the first to describe her experience in “Mommie Dearest.” and to Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts “August Osage County” where many of the dynamics I experienced during my childhood -into adulthood -and patterns with people I kept repeating until I stopped—are brought to light. Of course, there’s always differences in the details of the stories-but the fact that there are now resources, awareness, books, people speaking out about both/and-domestic violence, trauma bonds, toxic parenting, etc. becomes the THANK YOU for the pathways others found to healing, freedom, to living in peace and dignity-a life worth living. I realize I’ve strayed to other “dysfunctional” challenges in relationships-and there’s overlap. The gratitude I live to this very day remains immense, enduring, expanding. Thank you for sharing this-the path to freedom you’ve found! Wow. Much common ground I felt here with you!! Yey! Yey! Tears in my eyes!!

  5. Oh JoAnna, I believe you’ve already made “good use of your second chance,” merely by having the courage to share your story. I am so glad that you were able to find the support you needed to take your children and start over. You should be immensely proud of yourself. I’m proud of you. And who knows how recounting your story may help someone else?

  6. Congratulations, Joanna. What was it exactly that helped you understand you were wrong?
    I know full well that each situation is different but my goal is to help and/or encourage people to look at their thinking and find a healthy perspective. It is not easy and perhaps my never have a finale.

    • I replied to this one on Linked-In but in case you didn’t see it I’ll share it here as well:

      My discovery started after reading Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft. While I processed the information in the book, I had the help of a weekly therapy session, people with who I trusted willing to watch my kids, a flexible and well-paying job, and a counselor from Safe Futures on speed dial. So when it comes to what exactly helped me – I’m not sure it could be one thing specifically.

  7. You articulated your story well without blame, pride, contempt or sacrificing your abuser. The key, I think, was in realizing you couldn’t change him but you could change the future for you and your children. That shows wisdom and character to do the right thing. I love the way you thank people who will probably never know that you gave them credit for your success. Here are your life changing words in this article: But I sought help,……and that is what made the difference.