The turning point…
Woman’s personal experience leads
to career choice
Publisher’s Note: This is the second segment of a two-part story. The first segment appeared in last week’s edition.
GRAFTON –It was after that incident the fear that her husband would actually take her life intensified to the point that every free moment Halldorson had was spent thinking of how she could escape.
“The turning point for me was when any time I was alone in my car, all I could think about was how can I kill him and get away with it,” Halldorson said. “I thought my only way out was either I was going to die or he was going to die.”
Instead, one morning he left for work and she took the opportunity to run. Finding the courage to overcome the shame and embarrassment she associated with her marital situation, she got in her car with nothing but the clothes on her back and drove. The drive took her to a friend who lived on the Grand Forks Air Force Base – a safe haven where her husband could not get to her.
When he discovered where she was, he and his mother called her friend night and day insisting that she come back to him. Instead, she called her parents and her brother and father came to get her.
Her family knew that she was unhappy in the relationship, but they never knew of the abuse she had been subjected to.
“Nobody ever asked ‘did he abuse you?’ and it’s not against the law to be a jerk. That is what people would see,” she said. “I never disclosed the abuse to my family because I didn’t want them to feel responsible. My dad cried, and that was the most difficult thing for me. He didn’t understand why I didn’t reach out earlier.”
From the day she left, she continued to be fearful that he would come after her. She left the state of North Dakota and filed for divorce, but he wouldn’t sign the papers. Eventually a judge granted the divorce after she took the proper legal steps.
“I can’t remember the date I was married, but I know the date I left him and I can remember exactly the date I was I divorced. I wanted so badly to be me again. I had lost me and the judge gave me my name back,” she said while wiping tears.
But his need to control her continued even after she left the state. Five months after the divorce was final, he found and called her saying he was at the airport and was coming for her. She called her brother who lived nearby and he came to be with her, but her ex-husband never made an appearance. Years later, he did contact her to apologize for how he had treated her, but she didn’t want to hear it and still fears him.
Another chance at happiness
In the years that followed, Halldorson worked with law enforcement and victims of crimes in Washington state. She met a wonderful man and eight years after her divorce, she remarried. The couple had a great relationship for three years. Then one afternoon, it abruptly changed. Again, something she didn’t see coming.
She came home from work one afternoon and her husband, who was an alcoholic, had been drinking. An argument between the couple ensued as he was talking to a friend on the phone.
“He told his friend ‘I can’t talk anymore because my wife is being a bitch and I’m going to kill her,’ he hung up the phone, grabbed a knife and held it to my neck.”
For some reason, he thought that his wife had called the police. He told her if he saw the police coming down the road he would kill her. At that point her greatest fear was that he would do it. In a panic for her life, she doesn’t know how she did it, but she escaped. Her husband’s friend had called the police after the phone conversation and they arrived to help get her to safety and arrested her husband.
The threat on her life that afternoon was a one-time incident in her second marriage and she gave her husband a second chance. The drinking continued however, and two years later she filed fo r divorce. He did not contest it.
Halldorson said it has taken her a long time to get to where she is today – to be okay with herself, to be okay with being alone and to finally be in a healthy relationship with a man.
The experience in her own life with domestic violence influenced her current career choice. She saw an opportunity to help other women, believing education and community involvement are paramount to bringing an end to domestic abuse. She wants victims to be aware of the services available and who to call when they need help to get out safely.
“Working in this field, when I see victims come in, I see them feel that shame, that embarrassment of what they have been through,” Halldorson said. “It’s time that we acknowledge domestic violence for what it is. It’s not the victim’s fault and it is not their shame to bear.”
Halldorson now recognizes the warning signals she didn’t see when she was entering the abusive relationships. She cautions women to trust their gut if they sense something in a relationship is not quite right and to distance themselves from the person they are involved with.
“It was 20 years ago for me and the emotional scars are still there. I made it out alive not once but twice. Sharing my story now may help someone else,” she added.