I grew up in the small town of Price, Utah. From the age of 5 to the age of 10, I lived on 5 acres just outside of town. It was a wonderful existence. My cousins lived just up the lane and we could go play for hours in the vast open space surrounding us. We had a wash (dry creek bed) in our backyard that we often played in and went exploring in for miles. We even built a great little fort in there using bushes for the walls and rocks and logs for furniture. It quickly became the neighborhood hangout. Then just after my mother’s 30th birthday my parents sat my sister, brother and me down and told us they were getting a divorce. Not long after that, we moved from our wonderful home. My mother rented a home in the center of town and my father rented a duplex on the east side of town. After going back and forth between my mother’s home and my father’s for a while, my sister and I ended up living with my mother and my brother stayed with my father.
My mother, after getting pregnant at the young age of 16, dropped out of school and never even received her GED. Therefore, her earning potential was very limited. At the time of the divorce, she was working at the local drug store grossing $800 per month. Yet she was determined to give my sister and me everything we wanted. My sister became a cheerleader and I the high school mascot; both of which cost my mother a lot of money between uniforms, game trips, and national competitions. Somehow, she made ends meet. After watching my mother struggle so hard to put food on the table I swore I would never put myself in the same situation. I was going to get married one time and work my hardest to not let it end in divorce.
Years later, I did get married and I quickly found out how hard it is to keep a marriage together. There has to be a lot of compromise from both parties to make it work. Though my husband never hit me, he was very verbally abusive. He learned how to make me feel so worthless that I found myself scared to try anything hard. At the time of our marriage, I was working on an engineering degree at the University of Utah. He tried many times to talk me into quitting school but I was determined to finish. However, it wasn’t long before I changed my major to Geography because it was easier and would not take as long to complete. I also quit going to church because it was easier to not fight with him about me not being by his side for 2 hours on a Sunday morning. The ultimate compromise I made was selling my rental property (a condo I owned before our marriage). He told me that I either had to sell the property or we would get a divorce. Since we had already had our first child and I was pregnant with our second at the time, I of course chose to keep my family together. We tried marital counseling which seemed to help for a while but it did not take him long to go back to his verbally abusive ways.
Less than 5 months after selling my condo, my oldest child (who was 2 ½ at the time) announced, in front of her father, that he put his finger in an unthinkable place. He denied it immediately and swore he would never do such a thing. Not knowing what to do, I took her to her pediatrician but there was no evidence of abuse. So I had to trust that he was innocent. I tried to forget about the incident but it was not easy. It was constantly in the back of my mind. At the time, I was pregnant and working part time at Salt Lake Community College with no benefits so there was no way I could leave even if I wanted to. I found myself constantly praying about it. Then May came and I gave birth to our second child and life seemed great again. It was a big adjustment to having a second child. Both my husband and my first child were very jealous of the baby. I was so happy to be a mother again that I did not let it get me down. I just dealt with it and kept moving forward (mostly because I did not know what else to do.)
Then August came and I found my oldest daughter doing something to herself that disturbed me. When I asked her to stop, she said, “Why? Daddy does it to me.” I felt as though life stopped altogether. That evening I took her to Primary Children’s Hospital to report it. After putting her through extremely invasive tests they determined that, again, there was no evidence of abuse. It was me this time that gave the ultimatum. I told him we had to go to counseling if we were going to make our marriage work. Three weeks later, we still did not have an appointment for family counseling so I secretly found an apartment and left the last day of September. When he came home from work that evening he found the house cleaned out of anything that was mine or the children’s.
Just like my mother, I found myslef a single mother at the age of 30. I have looked back a number of times and wondered if I did the right thing. I will even admit that I considered going back a couple of times. But the one thing that kept me strong is the thought of my children and how much better off they are today because I got them out of that environment. I do not know for sure if my husband really did the things my daughter said he did. I do know that she is a completely different person now. At the age of three she was so afraid of everything and everyone that she would not even play at a McDonald’s play area if there was anyone else anywhere near it (including children smaller than her). Today at the age of 8, she is confident and strong and reading at a tenth grade level. She loves doing gymnastics, helping others, and being the center of attention. She gives me the strength I need to each day to continue being the example I need to be for her so that she can have a better future and be anything she wants to be.