Have you ever met someone whose hardship inspired them to change their world?
I met Eva at a local writer’s conference. Her quiet and gentle presence belied the fact that her fight to save the lives of her and her sons has touched thousands of lives of domestic violence victims in Alaska. Though still concerned about her safety now that her former husband is out of jail, she agreed to tell her story.
Thank you so much, Eva!
1) Please tell me a bit about your relationship. What were the early signs of abuse? When did you become of aware that things weren’t healthy?
My relationship was classic. We met on New Year’s Eve, he called two days later and then called almost every day, said I love you by Valentine’s Day. We moved in together in March, were engaged in May, and got married in November.
I ignored warning signs when we dated. Two times he got angry and yelled at me and he often made comments that were demeaning to women and was unreasonably jealous.
Once we were married, he put me down and got angry if I said or did anything he didn’t approve of. When I was pregnant with our first son after two years of marriage, he began pushing me. Even after he threatened me with a knife, I kept thinking we would be able to work things out. He would say he was sorry and cry, and I believed if I just worked harder we could have a good marriage.
During our first few years together, I made excuses that the outbursts were just part of being a new couple adjusting to marriage and dismissed the seriousness by convincing myself that all couples go through bad times. No marriage is perfect and everyone has fights.
Six or seven years into the marriage, he started pulling guns on me. I knew it was wrong but by then was so afraid, exhausted and demoralized that I could not think of a way to leave.
2) What were the circumstances around your leaving?
His violence was escalating and he was more vicious; choking me, locking me in the unheated garage, throwing me down stairs and then he started talking about killing our children (we had two boys). He jabbed me in the back with a loaded hunting rifle on a Saturday in January 2004. Tuesday of the same week he threatened to kill himself, and I called the suicide prevention line. They told me I had to call 911, and after some hesitation I called 911. The police talked with him but did not arrest him.
I did not want to go home to him. I took the boys and stayed at a motel one night, and stayed the next night with a friend. The second night he was arrested for telling the police he was going to hunt his wife down and kill her. Once he was in jail, I had the courage to tell my family (I had hidden it all for 12 years). Then a policewoman working my case said to me, “Sit down. You and I are going to have a little chat. He is going to kill you. You have to leave him.”
I knew then that I was never going back to him.
3) What were helpful ways family or friends supported you while in or after leaving your relationship?
My family and friends rallied around my children and me. They came to my house and packed up our personal items and some furniture, gave me money when I had none, arranged for a mini van to drive when my husband’s parents had his truck repossessed and taken away from me. Friends out of state sent encouraging emails and letters and three of them told me their stories of abuse.
4) Tell us about the Eva Foundation? How can people donate or get involved?
My husband had attacked me several months before his arrest and he ripped my glasses off and twisted them beyond repair. For months I had been wearing a really old, large, heavy, outdated pair of glasses I dug out of drawer.
My friend Sharon Athas Cote met me for lunch about two weeks after my husband was arrested. In the course of the meal I placed my hands on the table and said, “Look how awful my fingernails are. I look at them and realize that I don’t take care of myself anymore.”
Sharon and her friend Carla Culbreth decided to get me a new pair of glasses and a manicure, pedicure and haircut. They got to talking about where women leaving abuse could go to get those kinds of services affordably, and saw there wasn’t any place. They decided to start a foundation with the mission of helping survivors of abuse regain their self confidence and build toward a healthy abuse free life.
In 2004, they started the foundation and asked if they could name it after me. The Eva Foundation. I was in the process of leaving the state to live in hiding from my soon to be ex husband and had no idea that 8 years later the Eva Foundation would have helped almost 1,000 women, children and men.
The Eva Foundation provides goods and services such as clothing, house wares, resume writing, haircuts, manicures, school and rental assistance, furniture, linens, groceries and gasoline. We have a Cakes for Kids program that provides a birthday cake and presents for kids at domestic violence shelters and a Pet Program that pays for vet services and other pet necessities so the victim can keep their pet after they leave an abusive situation.
Want to get involved in making a difference?
Visit the Eva Foundation’s website at and fill out a volunteer or donation http://www.evafoundationalaska.org/form. Hold a gift card drive at work or in your church group to benefit survivors.
On November 24th, the Eva Foundation will be having the annual Christmas Tree Elegance Gala, a benefit that last year alone raised more than $140,000 to benefit domestic violence survivors and their families.
For more information, visit the Eva Foundation online or call 907-632-5666.
Nationally, the R.O.S.E. fund assists victims in need of reconstructive surgery to repair the impact of domestic violence. Contact them at http://www.rosefund.org