A Song in Her Heart | Story

January 17, 2011


Names and identifying details are changed in all client stories.

It’s a long road from Billings, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri, and an even longer road from abused spouse to confident healed woman. Judy has traveled both roads and she is intent on telling her story so other women can also heal.

But don’t expect a detailed account of Judy’s past – when one presses her for more facts, she hesitates. She still struggles with the memories: abuse and more abuse, her children’s pain, the nights in safe shelters and the days in courtrooms. She would like to forget the look on her teenager’s face (and the pit in her stomach) when she finally walked away. His fear of his father’s retaliation kept him silent and tethered to home, and she couldn’t make him go.

St. Louis offered Judy a safe place and a chance to fulfill her lifelong goal of a college education. It also gave her the calm she needed to hear music welling up in her soul. She had begun strumming a guitar and composing songs as far back as 4th grade, but all that disappeared with the responsibilities of marriage and children. Harsh tirades and constant belittlement had wiped out any remaining tunes. So Judy found a guitar and began composing, and she wrote for the sisterhood of women who needed hope in the midst of domestic abuse.

You’ve had your life turned upside down by another’s selfish deed,

And I’m here to help you find your way with whatever you may need.

Judy points out that she is a testament to the fact that domestic abuse can happen to anyone: as the wife of a successful farmer, she sure didn’t fit the stereotype of an abused spouse. And the proverbial “black eye” that seems to be the first telltale sign of abuse? Judy says that abusers can be masters at hitting where the bruises and broken bones won’t show. She also feels that women’s shelters get a bad rap and, as a result, women are hesitant to use them. Far from the dreary “machine sheds” that she had envisioned, she found shelters to be warm and sunny havens for resting and contemplating the next move.

Judy had always dreamed of being a lawyer, but her experience with a wonderful therapist made her realize that a social work degree could allow her to provide compassion and hope to other victims — to become, in her words, a “wounded healer to the wounded.”  With the encouragement of Family Resource Center, she completed her doctoral degree in May and she continues her work of counseling victims of abuse. Her guitar is never far from her side these days, carrying the tune of a spirit on the mend.

I’ll be there when you’re crying, and I’ll understand your pain.
I’ll help you sort your feelings when the past comes back again.

And I’ll give you information you may need along the way,
But most of all I’ll listen to the things you have to say.