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Survivor of domestic violence finds peace, healing with help from Cross Timbers Family Services.


By Rhyland Ramirez


Jennifer was like most of us: a typical 7-year-old playing with her best friend at the park. A normal teenager with normal drama and her high school sweetheart.


A hardworking wife with a hardworking husband, building a family in small town Stephenville, Texas.

But when her husband began turning to alcohol and other substances for his strength, Jennifer’s story quickly turned from typical to unbearable.

‘WE WERE LIVING WITH THE DEVIL’


In 1998, Jennifer married her long-time friend and high-school sweetheart, Jarrod.


At first, they faced the normal challenges of marriage and parenthood. Jennifer could not have guessed that in eight short years her marriage would fade into a horrific story of abuse.

Hers was like the stories you see on TV and in movies, the ones that make you shake your head and bring tears to your eyes. Woman falls in love, marries the man of her dreams, finds out he’s not who she thought he was, gets caught up in an abusive relationship…


In crime shows, she gets killed.


In movies, she eventually fights back and gets justice for the hell he put her through.


In real life, though, it goes on for years. Onlookers see but don’t see. They see the fear, the bruises, the hardship, the coming and going of strange vehicles in the middle of the night, the neglected mother of three working yet unable to pay for food or electricity.

They see the vanishing act of an abusive father and husband. They see the flashing lights. They see but don’t see. They don’t understand why she puts up with it.


“They don’t understand that you can’t tell the truth because if he finds out…” Jennifer started.


In her case, nobody understood that leaving really meant living in fear of him finding them. And asking for help meant risking his temper and suspicions, knowing inconceivable abuse was imminent.


Divorce wasn’t an option; he wouldn’t allow it. Multiple times, the sheriff’s office was involved, but nothing stuck and he would go free sooner or later. And it just kept getting worse.

There was no way out.


On Nov. 2, 2017, after the two youngest left for school, Jarrod came home to find bags packed, Jennifer and her oldest making preparations to start a new life.

They ran. He chased.


They begged neighbors for help. As her daughter made it to safety, Jennifer was facing the barrel of a gun.


“The gun wouldn’t go off,” Jennifer said.


So she ran. She remembered “a brave man yelling, ‘keep running, don’t look back!’” Then her husband shot himself.

FINDING PEACE


Laura was waiting at the sheriff’s office when Jennifer and her daughter arrived. The counselors had a giftbag for the 17-year-old, just to put a smile on her face amid the chaos and fear of the day.


With open arms, they listened.


On Nov. 2, peace came in the form of Cross Timbers Family Services.


For once, “we weren’t scared. They stayed with [my daughter] the whole time. They helped us get into our first apartment. They helped us with Christmas that year, got my son a bike, put a smile on his face, even got us a tree,” Jennifer said.


For the next year, Jennifer and her three kids met with CTFS once a week.

While Jennifer’s family was free from abuse and delivered from constant fear, the kids struggled to cope with their dad’s death.


“They put it on me that he killed himself,” she said.


During that year, CTFS helped the family open up, not just to their counselors, but to each other.


It was hard for her oldest, since she saw what happened. Her 14-year-old was shocked and couldn’t believe it. Her youngest was only nine. Jennifer’s own challenges after the events on Nov. 2 were almost too much for her.


“I would’ve gone down the wrong path without CTFS. After it all happened, I would’ve used—because I had seen that the drugs took everything…no [more] worries. Everybody around us did drugs. I would’ve used. I would’ve let the kids down,” Jennifer said.


One day during a counseling session, Jennifer got the message she needed to hear.


“Laura opened my eyes. She said it might be time to let the Lord have it,” Jennifer said.


And she did.

‘WE ARE BLESSED’


In the aftermath of it all, with healing, little things still trigger memories with her youngest, who’s now 15. But they talk about it and move on. It doesn’t interrupt their lives anymore.


Jennifer is remarried to “a wonderful, Godly man,” as she described him.


Her daughters have both moved out and are doing well. Her oldest has a 1-year-old son. Her youngest, still home, serves in the church and gets along well with his stepdad.


And where is Cross Timbers Family Services? Still on the other line when Jennifer calls. “Laura’s still there for me. She still answers the phone. She’s very happy for me; I can hear it in her voice. If it weren’t for Laura, I don’t know where I’d be. Without Cross Timbers, we wouldn’t have gotten the therapy we needed,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer’s story is not just a story. It’s a lifeline for other women in similar struggles. Her story has helped young women determine not to take the same path she did.


She has personally helped at least 4 other women find help and refuge in a dark time.


“I can always send them to CTFS,” Jennifer said.


The mission of Cross Timbers Family Services is to enhance safety and justice by preventing domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes through empowerment, advocacy, awareness and action for social change.


The organization provides crisis services, emergency shelter, counseling internship programs, medical aid and 24-hour emergency.


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