Online dating was not a thing when I was growing up and I am not too sad about that. I can’t imagine having the pressure to create a profile for myself, trying to convince some random guy out there that I am worth meeting. I know who I am but having to describe myself well enough just doesn’t sound appealing to me. I have plenty of friends who have done it and it worked out for some of them. However, the main reason that I don’t trust online dating is because my introduction to it gave me some insight into how profiles can be made to turn even the vilest person into sounding like a hidden gem just waiting to be found. This is the story of Everly and her quest to escape a controlling and dangerous spouse after creating a safe escape plan together. When she finally did he began his search for a new victim in the world of online dating sites.

I met Everly when I was serving on the technical team, and she was singing on the worship team at the church we were attending then. She, her son, and her daughter attended together, however, her husband did not. One thing I can say, unequivocally  is that I have never met anyone who has a heartier laugh than her. Even if something wasn’t funny to me, I would laugh simply because her laugh was so contagious! But it was her singing voice that truly made her stand apart. Whenever she led worship, I knew that I was going to fully engage because she could belt out a song from the depths of her heart and soul and you knew she was singing directly to Jesus.

Everly was a positive person and was used to being the person who was there for everyone else and didn’t know how to let anyone be there for her. Because of this, it took quite a while for her to open up to me about her home life. Then one night, while enjoying some cocktails on the beach, the stars glittering above the ocean, and watching, with fascination, the full moon rise (The Dark Side of the Moon), she finally admitted how hard things were. She described in-depth the emotional and mental abuse that she was suffering through, and it broke my heart. Here was this beautiful soul who Loved Jesus with her entire being; and yet, she was stuck in an abusive marriage and felt like she was trapped and alone and couldn’t tell anyone, until that moment (Silent Prison).

As our friendship grew, she would call me after her husband, Brody, had abusive outbursts. Things got so bad one night that she finally told him she was leaving him. This is where he began to use her emotions to hold her hostage to the marriage. Any time she brought up divorce, he would tell her that if she moved out, he would kill himself and she would have to live with the guilt for the rest of her life. He even brought the kids into it by telling her it would be her fault if they had to grow up without a father. This manipulation kept her in that tumultuous marriage for another year. However, the mental and emotional toll became too much to bear, and she finally decided that she needed to escape.

Once a victim makes the decision to leave an abusive or violent relationship, it is imperative that a safe plan is created first. This involves many different aspects which include things like getting financial information, taking important documents, knowing what the laws are in your state regarding domestic violence, getting legal coverage, obtaining court orders of protection, notifying close relatives and friends, and figuring out what the next living destination will be. These and many other aspects must be considered and integrated into an escape plan which cannot be skipped over. The implementation of any escape will only succeed safely if it is well planned and well executed.

In Everly’s case, we were a group of five friends who had become her support network and we let her know that, the minute she was ready to move out, no matter where we were or what we were doing, we would drop everything to help get her and the kids out of there. We were on call 24/7 and, as soon as she texted us the word “Go”, we were prepared to drive over, help pack her stuff, and move her to her aunt’s house. It was on a Tuesday, about mid-morning when that text finally came. I immediately left work, jumped in my van, and got to her house as fast as I could. Within 15 minutes, all five of us were there, rapidly packing stuff and throwing it in our cars. We had her packed and headed out in record time of about 45 minutes! What we didn’t know was that we were being watched!

One of Brody’s main hangouts was a bar immediately across the street from their house and he had a lot of friends there. They had met Everly on occasion, but Brody was their drinking buddy, and they were clueless about the abuse he regularly inflicted upon his family; or the threats of self-harm if she ever left him. So, when they noticed what was happening they wrote all of our license plates down so they could tell Brody who was involved in helping Everly move out; they thought they were being “good friends”. When he got home from what he was doing that day, his friends immediately walked over, told him what happened and gave him our information. Brody was well connected in their small town, so he had a friend of his run our plate numbers and obtained all our names and addresses…and then he made the angry call to Everly.

The call was what anyone would have expected it to be; Brody started out of the gate yelling and said that he would hunt her down and kill her, the women who helped her, and then himself.  She told him that he didn’t know any of the people who helped her, trying to protect us. However, that is when he pulled his Ace card out. He said to her, “I know exactly who helped you and to prove it, I already made a hit list and you are #1 on it.” He started to read off our names one by one, beginning with my name at #2! This greatly upset Everly, because what she had feared was happening and she felt that she had put her friends in his dangerous crosshairs. Every one of us assured her that we had zero regrets about helping her and would do it all over again if we had to.

Hearing about Brody and his abusive ways, it may come as a surprise that his profession was in the medical field; he was an emergency response nurse. He spent his daily life helping people and then would go home to hurt his own family. But Everly knew some of his colleagues and she reached out to a few of them whom she thought she could trust. Thankfully, she was right and, after hearing about the situation, they decided to help; especially because of his threats of self-harm. They set up an intervention and helped him get into a local mental health program. He was supposed to stay at the inpatient facility for six months but left after three because he “fully grasped his issues and had sufficiently confronted them.” Those of us who continued to witness his lack of remorse or change, knew that nothing he said was true; but we were powerless to do anything about it. However, with much relief, he did put to rest his thoughts of revenge and we were no longer his targets.

One month after Brody left the program, Everly was scrolling through a dating app, which was a new concept at that time. She came across his picture and gasped as she showed me what she had found. We began to read through his profile and were flabbergasted at the way he was describing himself. He wrote that he was a loving gentleman, looking to find a woman whom he could adore and take care of. He went on to describe his greatest attributes and all the adventures he wanted to have with a “special lady”. Everly was nauseous because she knew this was a trap and that some other woman would fall prey to his snare.

This was my introduction to online dating and why I will not go there. Having said that, I know many couples who have met online, gotten married, and have a beautiful relationship. I don’t think online dating is a bad thing; I just know that anyone who decides to go this route must be extremely careful about who they choose to connect with. I would recommend to always start with a public coffee date; have several dinners or hangouts and get to know the person…in person. Most people are discerning and can figure out if the person they are meeting is really the person they described in their profile. In particular, give thought to the fact that it takes time for someone to prove themselves and that trust needs to be earned, not freely given. If there are “red flaggy traits”, they will stand out if you are looking for them (Red Roses or Red Flags)! Hopefully it will work out safely and you will find your person!

Until next time, be cautious and stay safe!

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