Domestic violence: Survivor strikes back

Published 12:32 am Saturday, October 24, 2009

For an intimate crowd of about 30 gathered at the Shooting Star Gallery Thursday, the Genieve Shelter’s candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence was a time to reflect and remember.

For Kate Godby, it was a time to give back to a support system that had helped her leave an abusive marriage after 17 years.

“I knew things were not right, but I denied it,” Godby said. “I didn’t have cigarette holes in my arm. I only got choked a few times a year. To me, that didn’t fit the description of an abusive relationship.”

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Godby calls her form of rationalization the “I’m-not-one-of-them” syndrome.

Godby stayed in the marriage for many years, telling herself that she had made her marriage vows in front of God. She also feared having to go out on her own, and later had children to support, as well.

“I wanted a happy home, but I didn’t know what it meant,” Godby said. “I internalized all of this chaos.”

At one point, Godby’s young son even called 911 during one of the attacks, but hung up before giving any information. When police called back, Godby told them she had no idea why her son had dialed 911.

“I said, ‘No, everything’s fine here,’” she recalled.

The turning point for Godby came when she found out that her son and daughter routinely hid in an upstairs closet during the attacks.

“I realized I’ve got to make a change,” she said. “Children learn what they live. That was a key, pivotal point.”

Not knowing what to do (she didn’t live in Suffolk at the time, so there was no Genieve Shelter to go to), Godby reached out to her boss with a passing comment. Soon, he had enlisted a corporate security detail, counseling and a number of other measures to help her start the long process of transitioning away from the relationship.

Years later, Godby measures her success by looking at her children. Her 18-year-old daughter is in her first year at Virginia Tech. Her 16-year-old son is aiming to get into the Air Force Academy. They both know how to “have self-respecting relationships with others,” Godby said.

Godby’s daughter even helped give back through a Girl Scout Gold Award project. She created posters with information on domestic violence and the number to the Genieve Shelter, and posted them in women’s restrooms and other places around the area. She also organized an awareness event, Godby said.

“As a survivor, now it’s time to give back,” Godby said.

For more information on the Genieve Shelter, call 925-4365.