For one GJ woman and her children, Latimer House a refuge from violence
Jamie barely recognizes herself when she looks in the mirror these days.
The 32-year-old Grand Junction woman’s long hair catches the light with its glossy reddish-brown sheen. Black eyeliner frames her large blue eyes, and her fingernails sport French tips.
For a 16-year victim of domestic violence, these are no small adjustments. But Jamie’s attention to her personal appearance lately represents just one of the indicators of positive change she and six children have been undergoing since they escaped a violent situation that could have claimed any of their lives.
Jamie, who didn’t want to use her last name for fear of reprisal, is finding life to be a lot sunnier these days. Just a few months ago, Jamie didn’t believe she had the ability to leave her common-law husband, a man responsible for continually abusing her and her children physically, mentally and sexually. After a little prodding from a worker who alerted authorities,
Jamie snuck her and her children out of their apartment. They all landed at Latimer House, a shelter for people who are the victims of domestic violence.
“I kept thinking, ‘This is not happening,’ ” Jamie said of how she rationalized years of physical abuse in which her husband often beat her, broke her nose and repeatedly threatened to kill her.
“He started coming after me to the point where I couldn’t get off the ground anymore,” she said.
During an interview last week, she said, “I keep thinking, ‘What if I wouldn’t have been taken in (at the Latimer House), where would I be?’ I wouldn’t be alive.”
Jamie said she feared calling the police to report the abuse, because she thought her children would be taken away.
It wasn’t until her 15-year-old daughter said she would leave the family if her mother didn’t move the family out that Jamie began to see the deep toll the abuse was taking.
Jamie and her children stayed for two months at Latimer House. Jamie looked for work and found it. She’ll soon earn more money in her job after gaining additional certification. She’s working on getting her driver’s license, something she never had before, and will drive a van that was donated to Latimer House.
It’s how she will get around with her children, two of whom have disabilities. The family secured a home, and donations from community groups have helped her furnish it.
Just being able to walk outside whenever she feels like it is a newfound freedom. Jamie said she practically was held hostage by her husband, who told her when and for how long she could leave the home. He held tight to the purse strings, and Jamie often had to beg for money to pay the bills.
Family members would hide in their respective rooms, she said, bracing for the wrath of Jamie’s husband, who is the children’s father. Every place they’ve ever lived is riddled with holes in the walls and doors ripped off their hinges, Jamie said.
She couldn’t win. If she made him dinner, he would hurl the plate against the wall. He similarly erupted into anger if dinner wasn’t made. The incessant name-calling wore her down. She didn’t wear make-up and always wore her hair slicked back into a ponytail.
“I kept thinking it was something I did wrong,” she said of the abuse. “But it was him.”
Jamie had run away from home, tired of the physical abuse by her stepmother, when she met her husband. She was 16. He was 21, handsome and said he loved her. Jamie was happy to give birth to their first child a year later.
But she was shocked when her husband beat her for the first time, throwing her against a wall while she was holding their 1-month-old baby girl. She flew into a fit of rage when her mother called the police on her husband after that first beating.
Jamie figured she could endure the abuse, as long as her husband didn’t abuse their children.
During the past five years, however, he began verbally and physically abusing them as well.
The violence began to escalate, and the past year “was the worst year of my life,” she said.
Even while she was at Latimer House, Jamie several times considered going back to her husband because she didn’t know how she would make it on her own with six kids. Those thoughts come less often now.
She said she feels a bit guilty about leaving her children to go to work, or doing things to better herself. She’s beginning to realize she can improve her children’s lives by being a good role model. Her children have more respect for her now. With the help of counseling and other services, they’re starting to heal again.
For the first time in her life, Jamie went out partying recently with friends just for fun.
Sometimes those friends now send her text messages.
She said she’s amazed that people actually care for her and like being around her.
“I’ve never had a friend before,” she said. “It’s nice to have people who like you.”