We were at home – a place called Muddy Creek Mountain. It was pretty isolated and a few miles out of town. My parents had been fighting and my father had been drinking. Alcoholism had been a major problem for him his whole life but little did we know that it would affect ours in the way it did on this hot summer night.
In an effort to calm him down, we went to my grandmother’s house which was less than 50 steps from where our trailer resided. We hoped that he would restrain himself in his mother’s presence and we could end yet another argument that seemed to occur more regularly as time passed. Knowing my mother’s intentions, my father was even more enraged and followed us over. When he made his presence known to us, he wielded a gun and in his drunken, slurred voice, announced that we were all to die on this night.
After a standoff that went over an hour but felt like a year, he went to our Ford Festiva and began ripping terminals and wires out so we couldn’t leave. This was my mother’s chance to call 911 and find a means of escape. After convincing the dispatcher that this wasn’t just another “domestic issue” and our lives were in danger, an officer happened to be three minutes away from our house. My father, knowing what was about to happen, ran into the woods behind our home and hid so he wouldn’t be arrested.
The officer picked my mother and her four children (including me) up and took us to a place called “Family Refuge Center” which is the local DV program in our area. It took a long time for us to gather our thoughts and process what took place. What mattered at that point was we were safe and our nightmare that came to life was over.
While at FRC, the advocates were inspiring and committed to helping us. Unfortunately, not many others in the community felt the same. Although they wanted to work with us and get through what happened, I heard statements about me from people who never met me.
Statements like “the sad thing is we’ll be arresting him in ten years or so for the same thing we saved him from” and “he is going to repeat the cycle because that is all he knows”. Maybe most young boys would’ve accepted that as fact but for some reason it bothered me. I didn’t want to make anyone felt like I felt. That was when I made the commitment to do something, anything when I got older to help others who may have been in situations like ours.
Now, over twenty years later, I am the first man in my home state of West Virginia to have spoken as a Survivor, worked on the Staff, and served as a member of the Board of Directors for a DV program. I also currently work as the Program Coordinator for Child and Youth Advocacy Center where I record forensic interviews of children who may be abused.
Another statement I heard over the years was “we hope he can go on to live a normal life”. I didn’t want to live a normal life. I wanted to do great things. I had big dreams. How come I couldn’t reach my own goals and dreams like anyone else? I wanted to get bigger and stronger by weight lifting and I wanted to make it in the fitness industry. In 2009, I was brought on as a writer for a website called Bodybuilding.com, which is the #1 fitness site in the world. I was eventually named 2009 Male Writer of the Year, which is the highest writing award in the fitness industry. I would go on to write for Iron Man Magazine and Labrada Nutrition. To be able to contribute to helping others in two different fields is something I’m very proud of. I also took what I learned as a child of DV to serve me now in being the best husband and father I can be. My life almost ended on that hot August night. But it didn’t. It helped me figure out what I wasn’t going to be, and what I wasn’t going to do with my life from that night on.