Jamelie Ford, 52, of Maywood is a proud mother of seven children, a grandmother and a survivor of domestic violence. For that she offers thanks to the support she has received from Pillars Domestic Violence Services at the Constance Morris House, a shelter where victims of domestic violence as well as their children can begin to heal.

Since 2013, Ford has been involved with Smack’d as a speaker. It is a Pillars presentation that is a mix of domestic violence information and a personal story told by a survivor to groups at churches, hospitals and schools.

Here, as a living snapshot of the one in four women who will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, Ford, with emotion in her voice, shared her survivor story again.

Her cycle of abuse

Jamelie met and fell in love with Bob (a fictitious name) in Maywood. Her cycle of abuse began on a date at a drive-in movie. He hit her with an open palm in the face when her toddler, who was in the back seat, was too loud.

“I told him to take me and him home,” Ford said. “…and, to apologize. He said, ‘I do not know why I did that, Jamie. That won’t happen again.  I am just aggravated and tired today.'”

Weeks of flowers, romantic dinners and love talk soon faded away, as the battering resumed with him, now her live-in boyfriend, having the need to control her whereabouts 24/7.

“Me and the kids had gone to a birthday party, and when we pulled up in the driveway, he was on the porch waiting, and he started running toward the car,” Ford said. “I rolled up the window, and he put his whole fist through the window, and the glass splattered all over my face. He was getting ready to hit me again. But I pressed on the gas…and the first person I saw I asked them to call the police, and they did.”

That time, and many other times, the police did not lock up Bob. There were times he would disappear for two to three days but would come back to restart his cycle of ping ponging between loving her, then choking, or hitting her with an open hand or fist, or brutalizing her with a switch blade and gun, until she begged for her life time and again.

At the point where she no longer felt safe, Jamelie fled to Pillars’ Constance Morris House, but didn’t stay long, choosing to believe that Bob was no longer a threat.

Twenty-two years ago, on Sept. 24, is when her belief was put to the test.

“[We quarreled] and Bob said, ‘Look, bi–h, I am going to show you how crazy I can be,’ and then he jumped on me, hitting me with a closed fist in my face.  I was trying to protect myself, so I grabbed the phone off the nightstand and hit him.  It made it worse.  He took my arm until he pulled it all the way back and broke it. I was defenseless, and he kept beating on me,” Ford recalled. “He took a switch blade razor and put the blade next to my neck and said you better say your last words because you are going to die in here. Long story short, he said I wasn’t worth it and walked out of the house. I filed charges. He was locked up and I went to heal at a far away domestic violence shelter.

“Many people will ask me, why did you go back?  Did you bring this abuse on yourself?  I understand now that it was because I was suffering with my own low self-esteem because I was so much in love with him that I could not see the forest through the trees. And, growing up, I was taught by my stepdad that you can love somebody, and still be abusive in some ways,” Jamelie says. “I have had to really grow myself, and learn what a really good and healthy relationship is.  Pillars has helped me with that.”

 

Pillars

Address: 333 N. La Grange Rd.

La Grange Park, IL 60526

Note: Constance Morris House is at an undisclosed location in the western suburbs.

Phone:
708-PILLARS (708-745-5277)

24-hour domestic
violence hotline:

708-485-5254

Website:
www.pillarscommunity.org

Leadership contact name:
Ann C. Schreiner, AM, LCSW, president and CEO; Lynn Siegel, LCSW, vice president of domestic and sexual violence services

Statement of purpose:
Pillars is the largest nonprofit provider of mental health and social services in the western and southwestern suburbs, serving 10,000 people through direct client services each year. Our main lines of service include Mental Health, Addictions, Domestic and Sexual Violence, Child and Family Services, and Community Housing; within those five lines of service are nearly 30 programs, to provide comprehensive care to our clients. If there is any service we can't provide in-house, staff will connect clients to the appropriate resources.

How long have you been in existence?
Pillars can trace its history back to 1928 through predecessor agencies. Our domestic violence program dates back to 1979.

Ways volunteers can help:
Pillars does not have regular volunteer opportunities, as much of our work is clinical and we cannot allow volunteers to work directly with our clients. However, we do offer a couple of opportunities to volunteer within our lines of service.Such opportunities include becoming a crisis advocate and staffing our domestic violence hotline, or dropping off a meal for families living at the shelter. Visit www.pillarscommunity.org/volunteer.

Useful donations other than money: Constance Morris House may be able to accept item donations. Please call 708.PILLARS (708.745.5277).