On May 12, Bree realized she had to leave the man with whom she had four children.
“It came down to my life,” said the woman, who is living in a Wichita shelter. She asked not to use her real name.
She had lived with the verbal and physical abuse for 12 years. Bree said she found help at the shelter and the Women’s Initiative Network.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Wichita and Sedgwick County officials will make proclamations this week encouraging people to look for the signs of domestic violence.
Bree said she kept quiet about the abuse she suffered. She didn’t speak about it with friends because they were happily married, she said.
“I didn’t want to feel different from everybody else,” she said.
Her partner became abusive after she had their fourth child, she said. He would swear at her, call her names and try to control where she went and whom she saw.
Then, as abuse often does, things escalated.
“He would punch me, slap me, choke me,” she said. “I was afraid if I left, he would kill me.”
Bree said police responded to her home 10 times and arrested her boyfriend three times. He would get out of jail, she said, and try to assure her he would be better.
“He would always say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and that he would never do it again,” Bree said.
She ended up at the hospital once when he punched her in the face, causing an injury to her eye.
Bree wishes she had gotten help sooner but is glad she is safe now.
Her advice to other women suffering abuse is, “Try to get out as quick as you can. Your life and your children is more important than being abused and being taken advantage of.”
Bree said she knows how hard it is to leave an abuser.
“It was like a mind control,” she said. “He told me nobody would want me, nobody would want to deal with me.”
Now 31, Bree has been earning money working at the Women’s Initiative Network packaging food and sewing household items that the nonprofit group sells.
The group was founded 15 years ago and has served about 130 women and 244 children in that time. It currently is providing educational and job assistance for eight women, executive director Karen Schmidt said.
Eleven people died in Sedgwick County last year due to domestic violence, according to a proclamation that Commissioner Tim Norton will read Wednesday.
Schmidt said domestic violence typically increases in a down economy.
“We routinely have a waiting list to get into our program,” she said.
Two shelters in Wichita serve women who are victims of domestic violence: the YWCA Women’s Crisis Center and Catholic Charities’ Harbor House.
StepStone and the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center also support women in the area. McConnell Air Force Base has a program that serves victims of domestic violence, according to a news release from the Women’s Initiative Network.
Schmidt said the goal of Domestic Awareness Month is to “let people know it can be your neighbor, your best friend, it could be a stranger. We just need to all be aware of it and look out for it.”