Sadly I think we all know someone who is in or who has been in some sort of an abusive relationship or maybe you are in one ore where in one yourself.
I met Pam a few years ago and she is so inspiring and so dedicated to the domestic abuse cause. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to her and to congratulate her on the release of Knight In Tarnished Armor. It’s a great book and a moving story.
Pam Lambert is a speaker, writer, blogger and “comforter” of domestic violence victims. Whether it be on paper, on a stage or on the Internet, she’s an outspoken advocate for domestic violence awareness. As a survivor herself, she knows what it’s like to be under the control of an abusive partner and the hopelessness a victim feels being trapped, enduring emotional and physical abuse in silence.
Pam works with victims and their families to help them escape abusive relationships, adjust to their new life while restoring their joy and hope for the future. Her goal is to help remove the stigma of domestic violence so that people will be willing to step in and stop abuse, bring justice to the victim and awareness to prevent it from happening in the first place.
When she’s not advocating for victims, she enjoys hiking, walking, reading, traveling and spending time with her huge, crazy, supportive family.
It was a fairytale courtship and, as in most cases of domestic abuse, Pam’s talented and kind husband didn’t show his darker side until they were married for a couple of years. He showered her with love and affection, making her feel like the luckiest girl on earth.
In Knight in Tarnished Armor, Pam invites the reader behind closed doors and drawn curtains and into the broken heart of an abusive marriage. She’s honest in laying out the daily struggles of living with someone who used threats, physical harm and mind games to control and make her think she was going crazy. And then he would turn on the charm, act like nothing was wrong, and once again be the loving man she married.
The abuse continued to escalate and there were many nights she was afraid to fall asleep, positive it would be the night he would kill her while she slept.
After several years, she finally got a restraining order to have him removed from their property and filed for divorce. The whole process took years, working its way slowly through the legal system, but everything was finally settled, and she was free of her abuser and anxious to become a voice for other victims.
Knight in Tarnished Armor is an honest, real life, inspiring account of one woman’s victorious escape from heartbreaking betrayal and out of the grip of her abusive husband. Included also is encouragement, guidance and a safety plan with a checklist of things to do if you think you may have to flee an abusive relationship.
The freedom Pam felt upon learning her abuser was dead empowered her to dedicate her life to giving encouragement and hope to other victims. She also works with victims’ families and friends, to guide them in the most effective ways to help their loved ones. And she’s committed to educate and inform the public, to speak out whenever possible as a voice for victims of domestic abuse.
This compelling story provides a window into the victim’s thoughts, experiences, and trauma within an abusive relationship. The dreams of what it should collide with the reality of what is, revealing the strength, courage, and faith it takes to respond God’s way. Practical ways to move forward through and beyond the experience stirs hope within the reader. The book provides a voice for individuals who suffer abuse from others. FOCUS Ministries will use this book as we minister to victims and families of domestic violence.
Working as a domestic violence advocate is serious business. How do you qualify?
On the job training! I’ve spoken with social workers and advocates who have chosen their profession, not because they were victims, but because they want to help. They have all told me that being a victim is a huge benefit when you are dealing with domestic violence situations. There’s also a bond between victims which is hard to explain, but when two victims meet, they aren’t strangers for long. In addition, I have taken, and continue to take, many on-line courses. In fact, I will be attending the PCADV conference in Lancaster PA in two weeks for training. And I took an extensive course in Chicago when I started working with victims. And I read constantly…anything I can get my hands on, about domestic violence. Plus, I have hours upon hours of working with victims and I learn so much from them.
Isn’t it difficult to stay detached from victims that you are advocating for?
At first it was terribly hard. My wounds were nowhere near healed and I kept tearing them open by listening to the stories of other victims. At one point, I was so invested with one of the victims, I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought I heard her calling my name. I was half way dressed before I realized how ridiculous it was. That’s when I realized I needed to step away for a while. At the time, I was writing my book, which was hard to do anyway, and then having the other victims leaning on me when I was barely strong enough to stand myself, I did have to take a break. It’s much easier now to detach. You must, or you are constantly torn up and not any good to anyone.
How do you do it?
Well, I stopped putting myself in their place…which was what I was doing at the beginning. Now, I’m standing outside, seeing the big picture, which is something you can’t do as a victim because you so exhausted just trying to stay alive and sane. I also pray a lot! I know that for me to help them, I can’t think like a victim, I have to think like a survivor.
You volunteer to go into prisons to speak with abusers. Are they receptive to you?
Oh my! They are a captive audience! I love to speak in prisons. I especially like the question and answer sessions at the end. So many of them have been victims of child abuse, so they are no stranger to abusive situations, but they need to see the woman’s perspective. Several men have told me they were doing time for beating or killing their mother’s abuser. The best experience was when I went to the woman’s prison for an entire day of domestic violence awareness. There are so many women who are incarcerated because their abusers forced them to do something…carry drugs, drive the get-away car, whatever…that broke the law and they were caught and thrown in jail. But if they hadn’t done what the abuser made them do, they might be dead!
Do you think it makes a difference?
I sure hope it does! I have had inmates talk to me afterwards and tell me they had no idea that their behavior was abusive because they never physically hurt their partner. One man was crying when he told me he knew now why his wife left him. He said he never hit her or did any harm to her physically, but he did control her every move, how she dressed, who she was- allowed- to be friends with…he thought he was being protective, and he was smothering her spirit!
As a survivor of domestic abuse and looking back what were the earliest red flags, behaviors you missed that may have signaled what was to come?
I do a whole talk on the red flags. My husband asked me to marry him 10 days after we met…that’s a red flag. He wanted to spend all our time together…that’s a red flag. Our relationship was too good to be true, he was a perfect match for me…that’s a red flag. All those things seem romantic and lovely when you have been swept off your feet by the handsome, intelligent, funny man of your dreams. And all that made me over look the fact that there were inconsistencies in his story, he blamed everyone else for his problems and he was very vague about his past, other red flags that I should have seen, but was blinded by love.
What advice do you have for women living with an abuser, needing a plan to get out safely?
Prepare yourself for the day you will leave. Put money away, gather all your important papers and give them to someone to hold for you or open a safe deposit box and put them in there. Find a safety plan on line…there’s one in my book and on my website, PJLambert.com. Read over it and do as much as you can without him knowing. If you have a local shelter, visit it and ask them for advice. They are not just a place to stay, they are a treasure chest of information, helpful tips and good advice. Find someone you can trust, a family member, friend, co-worker and let them know what’s going on. Keep a journal…I can’t stress how important that is. Nothing emotional or elaborate, just a record of the abuse, the date, time, who was involved, what happened, and the injuries, if any.
How can someone help a loved one or a friend that is being abused?
Listen, don’t judge, don’t give advice, just be there for them. Don’t bad mouth the abuser. She’s fragile and exhausted in every way… physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually…she doesn’t need someone telling her what she did wrong or what to do now. She’s had years of someone telling her what to do. Just give her support and comfort. If she needs a place to stay and you can provide it, by all means, do that. If she has to go to a motel for a couple nights and can’t afford it, pay for it. If she needs a baby sitter while she goes to court, watch her kids. Just do whatever you can to make her life easier. It’s not forever, it’s just until she gets out, safe and back on her feet. Listen…I can’t stress how important it is for a victim to feel like someone is hearing them. Don’t listen with your eyes on the tv or looking at your phone, give her your 100% attention, even if you have heard it before and you’re tired of hearing it. She needs to get it out to heal.
You hold support group meetings in your home tell us about that.
I love Carefree Coloring! I noticed in dealing with victims that they don’t look at your when they talk. They are embarrassed, ashamed, confused, whatever, so they play with a napkin or pick at their fingernails. I had jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon and enjoyed it so much. It is so relaxing! I had an idea that perhaps I could combine a victim/survivor support group with a coloring party and it’s a huge success. To be truthful, I just supply the location and supplies. The ladies start chatting as soon as they come thru the door and they share stories and encourage one another and laugh and cry and it’s just wonderful. As they color, they are relaxing, they don’t have to be ashamed because everyone in the room knows exactly what they are have experienced. They give each other advice and they are even calling each other during the week. The other wonderful thing about it is, if they are still in an abusive situation, they can tell their abuser they are going to a coloring party (because they are!) and can even take- home proof. It has worked out beautifully!
Was writing the book therapeutic or empowering or both?
It was excruciating! It took me five years. I would type a bit and then get up and pace back and forth until my heart rate calmed down. I’d have to put it away for a while. I wrote the beginning easily, the good years. Then I wrote the end. But that middle part…to describe the abuse…it took all I had. And I left out so much, especially the sexual abuse. Once it was done, it was a huge relief. And then I started hearing people say that it helped them, that they bought it for their daughter/sister/aunt, that they couldn’t put it down once they started reading it, that they understand domestic violence so much better now…that’s when I realized how powerful words can be and how much it helped me to help others. Until then it seemed my experience had no purpose, but when I realized telling my story was helping other victims, that’s when it felt empowering. And it was therapeutic getting that all out. I didn’t realize it at the time because it was so painful, but I felt cleaned out when it was done.
Why did you decide to use your real name verses a pen name to share such a vulnerable painful time in your life?
I had originally written it under the pen name Erin Donovan because when it was published the first time, my husband was still alive. I knew that if he found out I wrote a book and revealed all his dirty secrets, he would kill me. Now that he’s dead, I WANT the world to know who I am, what I went through and how domestic violence can happen to anyone, even a middle class, white bread, preacher’s daughter. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name. When I gave my first speech after my husband died, I was introduced as Erin Donovan. At the end, I said, “I was introduced as Erin Donovan. However, that is not my real name, just one I’ve had to use because my ex-husband would kill me if he knew I wrote this book. On April 1, 2013, my husband committed suicide, so I’d like to introduce myself by my real name…Pam Lambert.” I got a standing ovation. That was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever said. No more hiding, no more looking over my shoulder, no more “burden of awareness”.
Are you planning to write another book?
As a matter of fact, yes! It will be a book of encouragement for victims and survivors.
What is your favorite local restaurant, and what are you ordering?
There’s an Italian restaurant that hangs off the side of the mountain and overlooks Johnstown and the whole front is glass. The food is fantastic! I always try something different, but the one thing I always get is the crab dip appetizer.
Read Pam’s book if you would like to learn more about my journey from loving wife to domestic violence victim, to survivor, to advocate. If you are searching for someone to speak at your next event, please contact her. Those of you who are looking for someone to talk to, visit my sit and sip page.
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