Lori Nunnink: Your past does not dictate your future
The abuse was nothing new. Married at 19, her first marriage launched Maddie into a cycle of emotional abuse that eventually permeated every aspect of their lives.
With her second marriage, not only was she encased by emotional abuse, but the physical abuse began an innocuous infiltration that directly impacted her small children and served to exploit Maddie’s fears and insecurities.
It was her third long-term relationship that sent Maddie plummeting down a new path of inevitable destruction. The only difference this time was that instead of allowing the abuse to oppress her, she used it to empower her. Only then was Maddie able to reach out from the depths of the silent darkness she’d endured for years and find strength in a system designed to protect her and her children and ultimately change her title from victim to survivor.
Maddie came to the Nevada County Victim Witness Assistance Center as a victim, yet for the first time since the abuse began, feeling a sense of empowerment after the arrest of her abuser. That sense of power, though, came with a myriad of emotions, including fear of the unfamiliar, anxiety that she would not be believed, anger toward the man who had broken his promise to love and cherish her, trepidation for the unpredictable outcome and a fierce desire to protect her children from a dangerous and abusive individual.
It was her motherly instinct that largely fueled Maddie’s ability to change her circumstances and design a new and emotionally healthy path for her children. Eventually, it was a recognition of her self-worth and value as a human being that gave Maddie the tenacity and strength to boldly testify against her abuser without compromise and provide the fortitude she needed to complete prosecution to the end.
Utilizing referrals to local therapists and counseling centers provided by the assistance center, employing safety measures offered through partnering organizations, and effectively reporting violations by her abuser, Maddie began creating the new life for which she’d always hoped for her and her children.
Her advocate helped Maddie learn to assert herself when engaging with the prosecuting attorney. She helped Maddie through applying for and receiving a civil restraining order to enhance the temporary criminal protective order provided through the criminal case.
Maddie worked with her advocate to obtain crime victim’s compensation, which enabled her to flee her perilous living environment. Even with social distancing, Maddie’s advocate spent many courtroom opportunities providing direct and indirect support. Her advocate committed countless hours to offering a compassionate ear during Maddie’s most difficult moments.
Working with her advocate to create an impactful Victim Impact Statement, Maddie was able to regain the control of her life, of which she’d been stripped through victimization, and use it to fuel her future and that of her children.
Through the support and aid of a caring advocate provided through the center, Maddie found her voice. An existence that once seemed bleak and hopeless evolved into a life filled with substance, joy, peace and the anticipation of a hope-filled future free of abuse and oppression. Maddie has developed skills and strategies needed to make her life meaningful and future fulfilling.
As our nation and the world alike continue to endure restrictions imposed as a result of the current pandemic, limited access to communitywide resources is leaving factions of society susceptible to the casualties of crime. Victims of domestic violence, in particular, are facing unparalleled vulnerabilities never before witnessed across America’s communities.
As they continue to experience ongoing abuse, victims of domestic violence have limited access to the means and resources once readily available and necessary for escaping their volatile situations. Because assistance channels have been reduced, many instances of abuse are going unreported, often leaving a dangerous living environment unchecked.
During this fragile time of uncertainty, victims of domestic violence and similar crimes need to know they are not alone, and they have not been abandoned.
Law enforcement personnel throughout the region are committed to protecting our community. Prosecutors are vigilant in their efforts to ensure abusers are held accountable for their actions. Partnering alongside the Nevada County Victim Witness Assistance Center, local organizations are dedicated to serving community members most at risk.
For those in a chasm of danger and fear, there is hope. Don’t allow the abuse to continue. Don’t succumb to the idea that your past dictates your future. And don’t forget your value as an individual who is uniquely designed to accomplish great things.
Lori Nunnink is a senior victim advocate for the Nevada County Victim Witness Assistance Center.
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