BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Editor’s note: October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This article is part of a series that provides personal insight from those who’ve overcome abuse and want to share their story to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation. Knowing the warning signs is important to know when to reach out for help or to help a fellow Airman or spouse.
Domestic abuse is a serious issue many men, women and children face. Because it impacts so many different people, it’s important to know that no one needs to fight this battle alone.
Reaching out to available resources can be the difference between overcoming violence and it overcoming an individual.
For Staff Sgt. Thaddeus Rowe, 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production journeyman, his relationship started off as any other normal relationship would.
“We could go anywhere and talk about anything together. I enjoyed being around her,” Rowe said. “She was someone I wanted to spend my time with and also someone I looked to for motivation.”
They eventually married and had two children. However, as time went on, verbal abuse began to emerge. Without the ability to identify the red flags of abusive behavior, he was unaware his situation was worse than he thought.
“We couldn't really resolve issues and I found a lot of the problems we were having were always my fault,” he said with a blank stare. “Or if I wanted to hang out with my friends she would always tell me, ‘you shouldn't hang out with them because of this or that.’ - But then reinforced it with, ‘you’re better than them.’ So it was kind of confusing.”
After years of letting these attacks go on, they eventually separated, but continued having contact with each other because of their kids. The verbal abuse, anger and tension was still very evident. He described one particular incident last year as the breaking point.
She was bringing their children to him from South Carolina. It had been a long drive and she needed somewhere to stay. He allowed her to stay in his home with their children, but left for the evening to ensure things would stay civil between them.
“The next morning, I woke up to a million missed calls from my ex-wife and my friend. And I just started to see the spiral,” he said. “I called her back to talk and she seemed a little distraught. I knew I had to get my kids and leave. As soon as I got in the car with her, my daughter looked at me and she said, ‘sorry Daddy, mommy broke your things.’”
“When I came in the house, everything was in disarray. The windows were broken, things were scattered everywhere, and the TV was smashed. It was completely destroyed,” he said as he shook his head. “I asked my daughter, ‘did mommy do these things while you were in the house?’ She said, ‘yes.’ I asked her if it scared her and she said it did. That's when I knew that this could not go on any further, that kind of behavior is nothing a child should be allowed to see. The best example for a child is your behavior and I didn’t want my ex-wife’s behavior to be an example for my kids.”
That was the turning point for Rowe and his children. He went to his supervisor for help. Rowe was then put in contact with Barksdale’s Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate.
“I don’t just tell people to leave their relationships,” said Adriane Banks, Barksdale’s DAVA. “Sometimes it takes a victim eight to 88 times to leave an abusive relationship. Safety planning and victim advocacy services are the top priority. Empowerment and encouragement are provided throughout the process.”
For Rowe specifically, the DAVA was able to prepare a Civilian Protective Order to file with the local District Court.
“It was granted and gave him temporary custody of their children,” Banks said. “We were able to connect Sgt. Rowe to on base and off base resources such as, legal advice and counseling for the children.”
Today, Rowe is able to look back in confidence knowing that he overcame the situation and he now has custody of his children.
“What they have offered me has been phenomenal,” he said. “I'm happy that I had a good group of people who believed in me, who were there to listen and care because you don’t always get that from everybody. If you want change, it starts with you. You have to be able to say, ‘I can't have this anymore,’ because until you actually go and do something about it, the problem is going to continue and it's going to build.”
He is also able to speak out about the misconception that males are only perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, but never victims themselves.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about your issues. Most guys try to lead on like they don't have to talk about their problems and try to power through, but it's going to stay with you,” he said firmly. “Be able to put your pride to the side and get help if you need it. Just because you're a guy doesn't mean that you can't talk about these things or get help or education on the subject. How would you know that there is an issue if you've never gone through it before?”
“Reach out, use your resources and give Ms. Banks a call,” Rowe continued. “She's definitely going to be on your side. She makes time for you and is here to help.”
Domestic violence is a concern for everyone. It is not a fight that can be taken on alone - know the resources and know when to get help. Abuse has no place in any relationship.
If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic abuse, there are resources you can reach out to for help:
• Family Advocacy Program – (318)-456-6595
• Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate – (318)-233-2230
• Military OneSource – 1-800-342-9647
• National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233