We Run for Tiffany
PRGYesterday I woke up to devastating news. I’m not one to become overly emotional on any one topic, but I’ve found myself really examining the events in my life a little more closely than usual. A person, that I wouldn’t say was a close friend, but that I began to know a little at a time though online Facebook conversation was brutally murdered. Even though we weren’t close friends, she probably never even knew it, but I felt a kinship to her.
We both lived in Michigan and I commonly passed through her neck of the woods, so to speak. Our interests included running and kids. The most recent conversation we had was in September when she ran her first half marathon. I was going to try to come up and cheer her on. Sadly, I didn’t make it that day as I’d taken something for my migraine and slept through my alarm. Our interactions were full of interest in cheering each other on and wanting to get together. Honestly, I think we would have eventually ended up great friends.
Many of our conversations were spurred as we tried to find time to get together and run or talked about our personal struggles. We both had kids and we both had history of domestic violence in our lives. I never asked her a lot about that part of her life because as a survivor I know I’m not really keen on talking about it myself. When she mentioned things, I listened. I had her phone number so when I was in the area I could text her, but most frequently I interacted with her on Facebook. I knew of her troubles and I knew she was in the process of exiting the situation. When she said she’d finally left, I remember being so proud of her for having the courage.
One would think that if you’re getting screamed at, called names, or in any way physically harmed or threatened that it would be easy to leave. However, I can tell you it’s not. Not every woman who ends up in a domestic violence situation is a drug addict, high school drop out, or in some way damaged. Although, by the time we exit the situation we often are damaged, sometimes mentally, other times emotionally, or even physically. Many women who end up in abusive situations are strong, intelligent women. They are women with education, goals, and hearts of gold. Often the abuse blind sides us and we are well into a bad situation before we even realize it has occurred.
Many abusers don’t just start out slugging you. It starts slowly. At first he’s a nice guy and you have many things in common, but then things change. It might be that he begins to yell a little more and suddenly one day you realize that you and the kids are walking on egg shells every minute of the day to try to avoid another outburst. Maybe you catch him in a lie, not realizing you’ve been living in a series of lies, and he turns it on you somehow making it your fault. Maybe you go to leave and he pins you to the bed by your wrists. Perhaps he gives you the “silent” treatment for days and is quick to have an outburst if you seem to have any emotion or disagree with him.
Often they begin to isolate you. I’ve had them begin to cut me off from my parents, threaten to kick my friend and long time roommate out of the house, and decide my friends are unacceptable. They rattle on about how horrible these people in your life are until you feel like you just need to avoid them to make it better and increasingly you become more isolated. They call you names, but not like in grade school, it starts slowly and at some point you begin to question if the labels are true. Situations are turned to make you the one doing the wrongs. Or he’s nice to you in public, but the minute your friend leaves the house he stops talking to you and gives you mean looks. Did you do something wrong? You don’t know and he won’t tell you. If you ask, he screams, slams things, throws things or pounds the floor with his fists by your head. So you don’t ask anymore and you just feel bad. You cry alone at night and you tell no one because what is there to say? You have more questions than answers yourself.
I had one boyfriend who would do something he knew I wouldn’t approve of and then come to me looking for approval. When he didn’t get the approval he wanted he would begin to scream at me. Once I told him I didn’t feel like going somewhere because the last time I’d wanted to there he blew up and me and the trip was ruined so I just didn’t want to go there anymore. When I refused to go, he started screaming at me that I had to go because it made him feel bad. So, I tried to leave and he threw me to the floor. I got up from the floor and tried to leave again and he wrapped his arm around my neck, pulling my body close to him as he applied pressure. I bit him. He let go. I bolted out the door and down the hallway, but since I don’t run very fast, he caught up with me and I fell. He dragged me back down the hallway of the Morgenbreede by my ankle. People ask me why I run these days and maybe, just maybe it’s so that next time I won’t get caught before I exit the hallway. Maybe I run so that next time I won’t get dragged back by my ankle.
They say women, like me, often have a hard time breaking out of the cycle. We don’t have good ideas of what a relationship should look like so its easy to get sucked into another bad one. I’ve heard that the getting out period is the most dangerous time, it is when if no violence has shown before that it will come out and if there was violence it will escalate. The abusers don’t like to lose control of the situation. What happened yesterday was a real reality check for me because it was her soon to be ex that shot her and her father in their children’s presence.
All women who have been in DV situations know the facts, but to have them in your face like that is really eye-opening. It wasn’t just some number, it was someone I knew. It was someone I shared goals with and we had plans. Suddenly, her life is snuffed out. She was an amazing person and strong to go through all the adversity she’d faced. My heart breaks for her kids who had to bear witness to such a gruesome event. Every time I drove through Kalkaska I’d think “I wonder what Tiffany is up to?” and I’d send her a quick note. The next time I drive that way, I’ll probably cry.
We never got to hang out, but I imagine she was a lot like me. If you looked at her you saw intelligence and strength. You never saw the hurt and anguish. I think we all get good at hiding it, controlling our tears, boxing up our fears, and hoping for a greener day. It’s not so much that you hide it from others as that it’s like the idea that if you’re sad and you smile, pretty soon you’ll be in a better mood. I think it’s just how we survive, you focus on the good and on tomorrow. Sadly, you don’t always realize the stark truths of today. There is a fund for Tiffany’s children it is at: http://www.gofundme.com/hi7org please consider going there and donating. There is also a memorial for her at: https://www.facebook.com/tiffanyecklerfergusonmemorial
Next week I will run with my son for Tiffany and her family. She never got to feel freedom and now her kids are short such a strong person. I can’t imagine how these things happen, but I know they do. My drives up I-75 to the great white north will be a little sadder since I know that even if I message Tiffany we can’t get together. I hope that her story brings awareness and I hope her children find strength. I hope they know that there was a running group out on Facebook, in the middle of cyberland where she made an impact with just a few posts and she made friends. Social media has made the world so much bigger and at the same time, in cases like this, so much sadder.