In the midst of my divorce last year, when I had realized it was bad, but hadn’t quite figured out what to do about it, I had a few friends at work who I could talk to and trust. I still didn’t fully explain everything to them at the time because it was too hard to admit all of it, but they knew that things at home were rough and that I was having a hard time.
One of my friends who was always very kind and supportive of me and knew some of the basics of what was going on at home happened to walk past me in the hallway. He could tell just by looking at me that something was wrong.
He stopped me and asked, “Is everything ok?”
I put on a smile, like I always did, said “yes” but shook my head “no” as my eyes welled up with tears and my hands began shaking.
He knew I couldn’t get into the details in the hallway at school, so he didn’t push me, he just said, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Half as a joke and half because I was terrified about going home that night I replied, “Can me and my boys stay at your house if we need a safe place to go?”
Immediately, without hesitation, he answered, “Of course.”
The next morning, he came to find me. He said he went home to his spouse and without going into detail about what was going on with me, he asked his spouse if my sons and I could stay at their house if we needed to. His spouse, who hadn’t even met my children or me yet said, “I’ll go make the beds.” No questions, no complaints, just support.
They probably never even thought twice about the offer for us to stay with them, but I did. I thought about it all the time. I thought about it when I was truly scared that I would have no place to keep my sons and myself safe. I thought about it when the thought of going home gave me anxiety attacks so powerful that I couldn’t breathe. I thought about it when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that conversation was a turning point for me. Just knowing that I had a safe place to go (one my ex-husband didn’t know about and wouldn’t suspect) made me that much stronger. I had reached a point in my marriage that I knew that things couldn’t go on like they were, but I didn’t know how to change them or how to get out. I had been afraid that if I confronted him he wouldn’t leave, or he wouldn’t let me leave. And if we did manage to leave, I didn’t know where we could go.
Admitting to someone else that I might need a safe place to be to get away from my husband – the man who was supposed to love and protect me – made me realize I needed to do something about it, and soon. So that night I went home and packed an emergency bag for my two sons and me. I packed a toiletries bag and some school/ work clothes, pajamas and play clothes. I put the bag in the trunk of my car, knowing that we now had a safe place to go if we needed it.
We never needed to stay at their house. My husband did leave when I confronted him. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But I survived, and I am stronger for it.
I am in a different place now, both physically and emotionally. And because of my amazing friends, I know that I still have a safe place to go when I need it. Now it is more of an emotionally safe place than a physically safe place, but everybody needs a safe place to go sometimes.
Where is your safe place?