Holidays were a difficult time for abuse victim

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Helen Weddington admits she spoiled her children when they were young at Christmastime, and she doesn’t care who knows it. As a child, Helen hated Christmas. It was the time of the year she would likely get a beating from her stepfather.
Her stepfather was an alcoholic who verbally and physically abused her mother, Helen and her younger siblings.
“We were abused constantly. Every weekend. It was our norm,” she said.
Helen grew up in the 1960s when there was no battered women’s shelter and domestic violence in the home was not talked about.
Now she is a volunteer with the Family Crisis Council, a nonprofit agency that provides support groups, an emergency shelter, prevention programs, court advocacy and help for people who escape domestic situations.
Rowan Family Crisis Council receives some funding through grants, from individuals and the Rowan County United Way.
United Way is in the middle of its annual fundraising campaign. Among other agencies, contributions to the campaign are allocated to Family Crisis Council to pay for expenses that include providing for the battered women’s shelter.
But 50 years ago her family had nowhere to turn.
Christmas was always the most difficult time for the family because her stepfather had the whole week off.
He worked in the mill, which at that time, gave its employees a week off work, and her stepfather would stay out of work an additional week.
“Christmas was always the hardest time,” she said.
When her classmates would get out of school excited about the holidays, Helen was “dreading it because he would go on a binge,” she said.
She imagined the great Christmas other children were going to have.
Helen always had issues with her hearing as a child. Once when her stepfather told her to get him a beer, he got mad when she didn’t hear him.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh, no, what did I do or didn’t do,’ ” she said.
He grabbed a butcher knife and threw it at her. The knife lodged in the wall. Later, Helen grabbed the knife and for a brief moment, she considered using it on her stepfather while he was passed out.
“It was not worth it, and it’s not in me to hurt someone. I couldn’t have done it. I knew that I couldn’t do it,” Helen said, reflecting on that day.
When her brothers were able to “protect” their mother against the abusive hands of their stepfather, the abuse eventually stopped.
By that time, Helen had left home and was staying with an older brother.
She eventually got a job at a local mill so she could save up enough money to move out on her own.
She met Woody at the mill and the two married when Helen was 17 years old.
It wasn’t easy for Woody to win Helen over.
“I didn’t trust men. It took him awhile before I agreed to go out with him,” she said.
They’ve been married for 38 years.
She once asked her mother why she stayed in the marriage. Her mother responded as many women in the same situations respond.
Helen’s mother said she was afraid — afraid she would not be able to provide for the children.
As a Family Crisis Council volunteer, Helen shares her story with other women, churches and other groups.
She wasn’t always able to talk about what happened in her family. Helen, a naturally shy person, gained the courage to talk about being an “overcomer” of domestic violence.
She hopes the community will dig in their pockets to contribute to the United Way campaign.
“If they don’t, who will? If not them, then who? Who’s going to help them (the women)?” Helen said.
Helen, who is an amateur painter, created a portrait about domestic violence that now hangs at the Family Crisis Council.
Robin Shue, the grant/finance coordinator for the Family Crisis Council, said the money allocated from the United Way is something they can count on each month.
“They are the only funder we have. The 15th of each month, they mail us a check,” Shue said.
Even if the Family Crisis Council does get grant money, they don’t know when it’s coming; they know there’s United Way money at the same time each month, she said.
“What happens when a lady doesn’t have money for her baby with certain formula?” Shue said.
The money from the United Way helps that woman.
This year’s campaign goal is $1.6 million.
For more information about the Rowan Family Crisis Council, call 704-636-4718 or visit familycrisiscouncil. org.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.