Break the Machine and Save a Life: Interview with Carol Moulin of Café Sanctuary

Carol Moulin is an incredible woman who dedicates her time helping victims get the help and resources they need to safely set up in their new lives.As part of our Friday series to help victims of domestic violence (as well as raise awareness) we are interviewing Carol Moulin of Café Sanctuary.  Carol is an incredible woman who has overcome so much in her life and has now dedicated her time helping victims get the help and resources they need to get out of their situation and set up in their new lives.  (If you haven’t already, read the first post in the series here.)

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DIY Adulation: What was your childhood home and life like growing up?

Carol: My childhood was a mix of ups and downs. I was the youngest of 3 and spent my life in a Catholic school. I couldn’t have lived in a better, more close-knit community. However, because my father was strict, I was very sheltered and, therefore, not allowed to do anything. My father was abusive and his eventual alcoholism exacerbated the dysfunction that ruled our household. My mother gave me the strength and stability I needed to get through the rough times. It was my relationship with her that saved me from a potentially destructive path; we had a great relationship which balanced things in a positive way.
I started writing at the age of 12 and it was what I needed to help me to “escape” while I was still in that situation. I didn’t realize that the interest in writing would eventually play a bigger part in my life and that I was actually laying the foundation for my purpose.

DIY Adulation: Do you think your past played any part in your marriage?  In what ways?

Carol: I think that my transition from “child of an abusive parent” to “wife of an abusive husband” perfectly illustrates just how difficult it is to break the cycle of abuse. As much as we try to never repeat the mistakes of the past, it takes time to realize that we must first learn how to live without the abuse or dysfunction. If abuse and dysfunction are all we know, we will have a greater chance of continuing those patterns throughout our lives.
When I thought I was escaping my abusive childhood by getting married, I didn’t care that I was getting married for all the wrong reasons. I have been married twice. My first husband wasn’t abusive, but he wasn’t an ideal candidate for marriage, either. I met my second husband soon after my first husband and I agreed to divorce. Again, I rushed into the second marriage because of the circumstances at the time. Because of my first husband’s poor choices during our marriage, we had to file for bankruptcy and so I was faced with either living with my parents until I got back on my feet or getting married {again} to avoid living with my father. I chose the latter because I thought anything was better than being under the same roof as him. There were hard lessons to learn and I certainly learned them.
I think my attitude toward relationships ~ wanting vs. needing a relationship ~ didn’t help. I know now that {believing I need a relationship} comes at a high cost. Putting my contentment and happiness in someone else’s hands gives away our power. When we conduct a relationship from a healthy place, because we want to be there, we are better able to recognize the need to walk away if when that relationship no longer serves us.

 

It’s not an overnight process and we still have a long road ahead, cleaning up the mess he made before he… Click To Tweet

 

DIY Adulation: How did your marriage (and your mental health within the relationship) affect your children, if at all?

Carol: My marriage was a prime example of the most extreme outcome of an abusive situation and the ugly divorce that goes with it. If anyone wants to know what not to do, they only have to read the entries I’ve posted on the Café Sanctuary blog. I made mistakes in how I handled the situation, for sure, but my purest intention was to keep the children away from it, even if I seemed to be the only one in the world fighting for their protection. 

My daughter’s father didn’t care about what was best for her or the family; if that were not true, he wouldn’t have spent life making sure she didn’t bond with her mother. He wanted to cast me as an unfit mother just to prove that he was “right” about me and, in doing so, my children didn’t get the best of me, the mother they deserved. I spent their childhood sleep deprived and questioning my sanity and worth as a human being because of my ex’s need for control of everything.
The legal system turned a blind eye to everything he was doing and made poor decisions regarding my family without knowing all the facts. They played right into his hands without regard for the truth about what was happening. They only had to look at his unwillingness to cooperate throughout our divorce process to understand what sort of person he was.
My children and I have been out of that environment for 5+ years, but we’re still dealing with the residual effects, including PTSD, self-harm (daughter), depression, anxiety. Granted, things are better because he’s not here to hurt us anymore, but it’s not an overnight process and we still have a long road ahead, cleaning up the mess he made before he passed away in March, 2013.

**DIY Adulation: I would like to point out that this is an excellent example of the power and control that abusers have over their victims.  Two years after her abuser’s death and they are still going through the process of healing.  That is the absolute reality of people in these situations.

 

DIY Adulation: What made you decide to get out of the situation?

Carol: I started questioning my faith because I couldn’t understand why God was allowing such things to happen to me. I was severely depressed and isolated from my family and my health was greatly suffering. I couldn’t stand to be home or without sleep and knew that if I didn’t do something to change my situation, I might not survive; if the stress didn’t kill me, he might have, if the abuse had a chance to escalate. I’m convinced that my children are what saved me from regular physical beatings, but I think he was getting to a point where he didn’t care if they were around because he nearly attacked my son for standing up for me. I asked myself if I wanted to be in that situation in 6 months, a year, 5 years and my answer was a resounding “no”. I consulted with a marriage counselor who took me through a checklist of the types of abuse and instantly I realized that the abuse had started from the very day we met. Once I learned the magnitude of what I endured, I wanted to put as much distance between him and me as I could and there began my plans to make that happen.

DIY Adulation: What resources or allies did you use when starting over?

Carol: I didn’t have a lot of help throughout the process. I got doors slammed in my face more times than I care to remember. As a result, I quickly saw just how easy it was to give up and stay put. I had no visible marks that anyone could see which made proving the abuse almost impossible. The government refused me a house on that basis, but I appealed and won. The most valuable ally I had was my counselor; during the course of our weekly sessions over two and a half years, I learned so much about the dynamics of abuse and in doing so, found the courage and empowerment to escape and start over. My neighbors helped me with the practical things like receiving my mail and keeping important documents/possessions safe. They were great about remaining alert and watching for changes in my situation that might require calling the police. There were a couple of other organizations, one that had a basic outreach program that helped after I escaped but its services were limited; another organization helped me appeal the council’s decision to find alternative housing for me. I surrounded myself with only those I could trust but I also kept looking until I found the right people to help me.

DIY Adulation: What is your website about and what can victims find there?

Carol: Café Sanctuary provides support and resources for anyone who needs help at any stage of their process of escape. We have important information about abuse and safety; and a blog in so that we could share our experiences. It’s important that our clients know that we have been in abusive situations and completely understand what they may be feeling, thinking, experiencing. In addition to the information and blog, there are links to Café Sanctuary merchandise, news about projects we’re working on, {including our book which is almost ready for publication} and a podcast of a recent interview I’ve done for a radio show.

We talk more about our Outreach Service, which allows us to put our clients in touch with the agencies that can help them. When a client first calls us, we spend some time talking and learning more about their situations so that we can assess their needs (counseling, legal services, shelter accommodation, housing, college courses, etc.). We do the research, contact the agencies, articulate the needs specific to the individual. When we have a complete list of the agencies, telephone numbers, addresses and contact names, we pass the list on to our clients so that they can directly contact the agencies, already knowing about the sort of help they can offer. Because we do the research, it lessens the potential risk of discovery by their abusers.Carol Moulin is an incredible woman who dedicates her time helping victims get the help and resources they need to safely set up in their new lives.

We stay with the clients for as long as they need us, helping them in any way we can and our services are free of charge. For support beyond fleeing abuse, I offer life coaching services via telephone call or Skype. Initial consultation is free. In closing, I would just like to say that I appreciate the opportunity to share more information about my experiences and Café Sanctuary. We strive to provide the very best confidential support to our clients because we really do know what you’re going through…and we care.

For more information about Carol or to find resources for you or someone you know, please visit Café Sanctuary.  Carol and Martha offer help any way that they can (going above and beyond).  When Carol says that they care I can tell you that she truly means it.

Don’t forget that every Friday in October there will be a new post about domestic violence. I want you to help take a stand with women like Carol and Martha and say no more!  “No more tolerance.  No more secrecy.  No more cycle.  Break the cogs and the machine breaks down.  Break the machine with me and save a life.”

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I’m a nerdy, crafty mom of three adorable little kids. I love writing and creating, but in my non-existent free time I also love karaoke, taking my kids to the zoo, and reading. I got my degree in Science (no idea how that happened) but I took every English class I could get my hands on because, yeah, I’m that girl.