The first time I called the Family Justice Center was not the first time my husband hurt me. After the long COVID quarantine restrictions were lifted, Jason started back to work. He was angry and resentful I was home with the kids all day while he was at work. He gave me impossibly long lists of things to do each day…errands, shopping, chores around the house, special detergent for his laundry. The lists were endless and became increasingly difficult to complete.
When our oldest Tommy started second grade, schools were still virtual. I spent a good part of my day helping him log into classes and complete assignments. The baby, Trevor, started crawling and couldn’t be left alone even for a minute. I had to schedule my errands and chores around Tommy’s school day and Trevor’s naps.
The more I fell behind on the tasks Jason gave me, the angrier he became. He accused me of not loving him enough, of being lazy, of putting the kids’ needs before him. Nothing I said or did convinced him there was not enough time in the day to get everything done.
Jason’s outbursts and temper continued to escalate over the next few months. One night, Jason came home in a particularly bad mood. The baby hadn’t been feeling well and Tommy spilled his milk at dinner. Jason started yelling, I wanted Tommy to go to his room, and everything went dark. When I regained consciousness, the kitchen table was overturned, the boys were crying, Tommy’s cheek was red and swollen and Jason was in the den with the door closed.
I knew I had to figure out a way to protect me and my boys from Jason before it was too late. The next morning was the first time I called the Family Justice Center for help.
The next morning, I woke up early with a terrible headache and sore shoulder. I tried to cover the bruises on my neck and arms so my little boys wouldn’t see them. I cleaned up the mess from the night before and made breakfast for my husband Jason and the boys.
As Jason left for work, he said I ‘looked tired and should stay home today.’ He then took my car keys, each of our coats, and left. After I logged Tommy into virtual school and put Trevor down for a nap, I called the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC).
I spoke with a Client Advocate and told her about the incident the night before. Jason had hurt me in the past, but last night I thought he was going to kill me. It was also the first time he physically hurt our son Tommy. I knew I had to do something before it was too late.
The Client Advocate arranged transportation to the FJC for me and the boys. Since Jason took our coats, I grabbed one of Jason’s old sweatshirts for me and bundled the boys in extra layers. Tommy was afraid ‘daddy would be mad’ if he found out we left the apartment. He was afraid to disobey his father and so was I.
At the FJC, I met with the Client Advocate I’d spoken to earlier. She helped me develop a safety plan and arranged for me to speak with an attorney for free. While we talked, the boys played in a cheerful room filled with toys and books.
My advocate also arranged for me and the boys to spend the night at a shelter. She gave us each a new coat and a bag filled with diapers, pajamas, and other items to help us get through the night at the shelter.
The next day, we were brought back to the FJC. While my boys visited the playroom again, I, with my attorney, testified before a judge from the safety of another room at the FJC. Later that day, we left the FJC with a protective order in place, a new book for Tommy, and stuffed dinosaur for Trevor. There was still so much to figure out, but for the first time in years, I felt hopeful.