Former abuse victim ignored warning signs
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Dana Byrd-Braun was only 14, she thought she had already met the man of her dreams.
After years of courting and dating, they wound up getting married. But after a few years, those moments of happiness suddenly turned to years of verbal and physical abuse. To this day, Byrd-Braun is still not sure what happened.
“We had been together forever,” Byrd-Braun said as she was helping Brandy Pearl (wife of former University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl) renovate the Haven House’s safe house shelter. “It was very gradual. It started verbally, and the manipulation got worse, and there were little signs. I was clueless. I never told my family, and I have wonderful parents. It was not something I really knew anything about. I never looked at the signs.
“I got out of it as it escalated to where his hands were around my neck and he was threatening to kill me in front of my children,” Byrd-Braun continued. “Maybe I didn’t want to face it. There’s a lot of denial among us women, and it was gradual. It was going on for — I can’t give an exact time period.”
THREATENED TO KILL CAT
Byrd-Braun, a Louisville resident, said her ex-husband would be set off with minor issues.
“One of the things I look back on is him threatening to kill my cat,” Byrd-Braun said. “I know that’s way out there, but it’s one of the signs that this person is having issues. They pick things that are dear to you before they necessarily lay a hand on you.
“There are so many warning signs that we need to educate people on, and it crosses all borders,” Byrd-Braun continued. “I was extremely embarrassed that I was in that situation, and once I couldn’t make excuses for him anymore, I knew I had to get out. Haven House is such a great thing for our community, for these women that need an out. Unfortunately I was clueless, and at that point when all this was happening, I didn’t know where to turn.”
Byrd-Braun said the abuse affected her children, but at the same time renewed her ex-husband’s interest in them.
“When this all started, I really thought I could protect them from it and it was all directed toward me,” Byrd-Braun said. “I didn’t realize until I got out of the situation how much it was affecting my children. I really thought (my husband and I) needed to stay together for our kids and for us to be a family. I thought I was helping them, but in reality, I was hurting them.
“One of the first weekends after my ex and I split up, he came over to spend time with the kids,” Byrd-Braun continued. “He never spent too much one-on-one time with them, even when we were married. My son said, ‘Mom, why is Daddy being so nice to me?’ Kids are funny about it. I didn’t think he would say anything. His dad hadn’t been nice to him. He never shared that with me.”
EMBARRASSED, SO SILENT
When asked if she ever tried to talk to anyone she trusted about her abuse, Byrd-Braun said she trusted family members and friends, but it was the embarrassment of the situation that caused her silence. She wasn’t aware of any suspicion that she was being abused among her loved ones.
“They were absolutely shocked,” Byrd-Braun said. “They weren’t necessarily surprised about the abuse, but naturally they were shocked because I hadn’t said anything. It was a very lonely place to be, because I didn’t talk to anybody. He promised to be better or deny he even remembered it. ‘I was drunk, taking pills,’ those were his excuses. I had bruises, yes, but he didn’t remember anything that happened. It was all lies.”
Byrd-Braun said the whole experience made her grow as a person and become a better mother.
“I absolutely think I grew as a person to get out of that situation from where I was then to where I am now,” she said. “I’m no pushover — I’ve always been an independent person. There was the embarrassment factor, like how could this happen to me?”
Byrd-Braun started volunteering with Haven House close to a year ago.
“Obviously it’s something that’s hits me personally. I wanted to help in any way I can,” she said. “I do whatever they need me to do. I’ve been surprised it’s been more of a blessing to me than I ever imagined. There are rewards for giving, but the personal rewards for yourself are very special.”