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A Veteran’s First-Hand Account of Overcoming Domestic Violence


By Rhonda Gonzalez

By Rhonda Gonzalez

If you feel you’ve become a one person unit, call us!

Click here to read the entire May 2019 newsletter

It’s rare to hear of a service member or a spouse being a victim of domestic violence, that is, unless a death has occurred. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m both a veteran and a survivor of an abusive relationship. It took three years to liberate myself from the constant mental and physical barrage I endured. Emerging on the other side, I discovered the toxicity of my spousal relationship damaged more than just me, it seeped into my children’s lives as well.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, on average, a woman will attempt to leave an abusive relationship seven times before leaving for good. Adding to this reluctance can be the images ingrained in us about military men and women – toughness, self-reliance, resilience, and even the concept of family. Since the percentage of people serving in the military is 0.005% of the total population, your fellow service men and women become your family. You’re taught to trust and rely on them implicitly. When that trust is violated, victims can have a tough time determining where to go and whom to trust again. In my case, my husband suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Studies have shown combat veterans who suffer from PTSD are two to three times more likely to abuse their partners than those not suffering from PTSD.

Another hindrance a spouse might encounter when reporting a military person for domestic abuse, is the potential loss of pay. Even a temporary reduction in pay produces a ripple effect reaching beyond the victim to their children. For this reason, some try to convince themselves staying in an abusive relationship is better for their family, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Children who witness physical, emotional, and verbal abuse often display psychological effects. They may internalize the conflict experiencing anxiety or depression, or, they may manifest the same behavior they’re witnessing, becoming more aggressive, bullying, or insolent. My children had to undergo counseling to determine the impact on their interpersonal relationships, mental development, and even their physical health. As a mom, counseling also increased my peace of mind.

After three long, tumultuous years, I separated from my husband. I remained in the military completing my 20 years of service enabling me to access pension benefits (50% of my final salary for the rest of my life). After just a few years as a civilian, I decided to move back to my hometown of Kansas City and be closer to family. Today, I am a Veterans Housing Case Manager for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. My experience allows me to intimately relate to clients struggling with domestic violence. If you are a veteran and feel you have nowhere left to turn, that you’ve become a one person unit, please call me at 816-659-8212 or email me at rgonzalez@ccharities.com. I will enroll you in our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), ensuring you are successfully housed, and then share the myriad of other resources available at our fingertips, including:

  • St. Germaine’s Little Lambs Parent Café’s where you learn parenting skills and build social, emotional and behavioral support
  • Employment Services where you can learn basic job skills, produce a resume, and even interview with prospective employers.

Semper Fortis!

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