The names of the women in this story were changed to ensure their safety.
RUPERT – The constant yelling and name-calling rattled Ellen’s nerves. The day her husband’s abuse finally turned physically violent, she escaped his grasp and bolted from home.
“I never looked back,” 60-year-old Ellen, of Rupert, said.
His barrage of insults began not long after they married nearly five years ago.
There is no age limit for abusive relationships. Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic, age, religious, sex and education boundaries.
“He was an alcoholic, and the more he drank, the more verbally abusive he got,” she said.
He would swear and call her “the stupidest person who ever walked the earth,” and ask why she thought she was “so special,” Ellen said.
One of the worst parts of domestic violence, she said, is that the person who is being abused can become sick too.
“You start to believe what they tell you about yourself,” she said.
The abuse turned physical nearly one year ago, after her husband had been drinking alcohol and yelling all day. That’s when she left for good.
“I was shaking and nervous,” Ellen said. She was moving from room to room to avoid a confrontation with him.
Her husband hit her and kicked her in a knee that had a joint replacement, an injury that will require future surgery. He also grabbed her arm and her hair, pulling her through the house. She eventually broke loose and fled.
“I still have nightmares. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever gone through,” she said. “I’m still frightened, and I don’t go outside at night.”
The man, who is now her ex-husband, also lives in Mini-Cassia. In a region of fewer than 45,000 people, running into the one person you hope not to see is nearly inevitable.
When she does see him on the street, her heart still “pounds out of her chest.” When she was in court to change her last name back to her maiden name, he was in court at the same time.
Ellen reached out to Voices Against Violence Magic Valley and is undergoing counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.
One in three women nationwide experience domestic violence in their lifetime. That statistic holds true in the Magic Valley, according to Donna Graybill, executive director of Voices Against Violence.
Abuse is not just physical either. It can take many forms, including intimidation, stalking, sexual assault, and using children or finances to control a partner.
For Melissa, of Twin Falls, the first seven months of her relationship with her boyfriend seemed fine. But after trying to violently rape her, then dismissing it later by saying he’s only been “kidding,” she knew the relationship was over.
“He ripped my shirt. It was scary and bad,” she said.
She loaded her belongings in her car and found a place to stay at the Mini-Cassia safe house. She had never been in a violent relationship before.
Most domestic violence cases, Graybill said, come down to one person wanting to control the other in a relationship. But some go even further. At least three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends on average each day in the U.S., according to the American Psychology Association.
“It’s more common than anyone wants to believe,” Graybill said.
Women are not the only victims either; fifteen percent of victims are men.
The need for services in the Magic Valley grows about 20 percent each year, Graybill estimated.
“We intensely feel the pressure of that,” she said.
The $700,000 annual Voices Against Violence budget comes primarily from grants. Three percent comes percent from local government, and 18 percent from the organization’s fundraising.
“We are always working to increase our fundraising efforts,” Graybill said.
The Twin Falls shelter is full. Then again, it’s almost always full, Graybill said. When that happens, the organization will purchase hotel rooms for the women who come to them in crisis.
In August, Voices Against Violence purchased 44 hotel rooms, the most they have ever had to purchase in a single month. Their yearly budget for hotel rooms, which began in July, is already depleted for the year.
“We will not let women be out there in situations that are unsafe,” she said. “This is very real to us. We have clients who die in homicides. The work we do is life-saving.”