Candice Amundson spent eight years of her life living in constant fear. Once her child’s life was in danger, she knew she had to get out of that situation.
Amundson is one of the more than 10 million women and men that have experienced physical abuse by an intimate partner in the U.S.
First observed in October 1981 as a national “Day of Unity,” Domestic Violence Awareness Month is held each October to unite advocates across the nation in their efforts to end domestic violence. Communities and advocacy organizations across the country connect with the public and one another throughout the month to raise awareness about the signs of abuse and ways to stop it, and to uplift survivors by sharing their stories and providing additional resources to leaders and policymakers.
After about 10 months of dating a man, Amundson found out she was pregnant. In the beginning of the relationship she says he was verbally abusive, but never physically abusive. “It started out as name-calling,” she recalled. “But then it turned into control. He started controlling the finances, wanted control of where I was, what I was doing.”
Once Amundson’s child was born, she says he started being physically violent toward her, but never their son. “He would pull my hair, try to grab me, throw things and would yell and scream,” she recalled.
She said the final straw was when he not only tried to strangle her, but less than a week later also tried to strangle their child. “I wasn’t pressing any charges at that time because I was afraid of what would happen if I did that, especially with his criminal history,” she explained. Her abuser was eventually sentenced with a felony for attempted strangulation and received a penalty of 60 days in jail.
It took Amundson many years to work up the courage to share her story with those she was close to and to seek help. “My body couldn’t take anymore of being in ‘flight’ mode. Blood pressure pounding, jumpy with every noise, nightmares and becoming a person that wasn’t me,” she said.
She confided in some people she was close to, who ultimately told her about Alexandra House, an organization that empowers victims of domestic and sexual violence and inspires social change through education, support and advocacy.
For eight months, Amundson attended a therapy program. Alexandra House was also able to provide her other resources along the way, like helping her terminate her lease early with no penalties so that she and her son could stay safe.
“They were there for me whenever I needed it. I can’t imagine where I would be without them,” she explained. Amundson said Alexandra House really helped her to understand and recognize healthy relationships and how to spot red flags and abusive behaviors. In addition, she also learned to cope with victim shaming.
Alexandra House Director of Mission Advancement Tina Bronson says the pandemic has exacerbated relationship abuse. “Minnesota domestic and sexual violence programs are reporting record numbers of people reaching out for services, and those who reach out for services are reporting more severe violence, complex family needs and increased mental health issues,” Bronson said. “At the same time, domestic and sexual violence’s most tragic outcomes — murder and severe injury — are on the rise.”
Several of Alexandra House’s programs have seen a significant increase in service requests. For example, calls to the 24-hour helpline were up 20% in 2021 from 2020.
Amundson offers the following advice for people who may find themselves in a similar situation: “Find somebody that you can trust, and talk to them and ask them for help, because I’m sure that person would like to do nothing more in the world than to help you. It might be somebody you least expect …
That’s the first step, just start talking about it.”
People who have been affected by domestic, sexual or relationship violence are encouraged to call Alexandra House’s 24-hour helpline at 763-780-2330.
“A misconception is that our helpline is only for abuse survivors; however, our helpline is for family, friends, co-workers, neighbors — anyone who is a concerned person wanting to support victims/survivors but may not know how best to do that or if what they are witnessing is abuse or what resources could they share with someone,” Bronson said.
Managing Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.