Cynthia’s Story – Aspen, Colorado – by Kelle Lynn
On a clear crisp sunny morning, with our coffee mugs side by side, Cynthia and I sat on the bar stools in her newly decorated kitchen overlooking the beautiful mountain landscape in Aspen, Colorado. With her long blonde hair, striking blue eyes and stunning facial features, one could easily think that she had only known a life of privilege. There was barely a trace of snow on the ground. It was the first week in April and ski season would soon be over.
Cynthia had agreed to tell her story of an earlier marriage so long ago that recalling painful memories she’d rather forget was a challenge at times. But she mustered up the courage and strength to look back and talk about this chapter in her life. It was one that she will never forget.
“If I hadn’t left him, I believe he would have eventually killed me. I actually had to plan my escape.” It was hard to believe that the Cynthia I was looking at today, was the same girl she was reminiscing about.
“My father was in the Navy, so my childhood was spent living around the world,” she said with a far-away look in her eyes. “I was born in Japan and graduated from high school in London. We then moved to Kansas City right after graduation, where my grandparents lived. I didn’t know a soul there.” Cynthia had to leave her friends and boyfriend in London and was not happy about starting life in an area where she didn’t know anyone. “I remember it as a sad and lonely time in my life.” At 18 years of age, her parents told her she had to start college at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. But Cynthia was more interested in partying than academics.
“It was 1977 and I was at an outdoor concert at the college, when John walked up to me and started talking,” Cynthia said. “He was six foot tall with long blonde hair and was macho looking. John had that bad boy image I was attracted to back then. He asked me if I wanted to take a ride on his motorcycle. From there, we started to hang out and we smoked a lot of dope together.”
John came from a large family of six boys and two sisters. His dad was a raging alcoholic and his mother worked full-time in spite of taking care of everyone, the minute she walked in the door. John and Cynthia’s upbringing were literally worlds apart in every way. John chose to work rather than graduate from high school.
“I never witnessed any kind of physical abuse in their home. There was just a lot of yelling and screaming. However, I remember seeing holes punched in the wall. They jokingly said that John was responsible. Everyone made light of it.”
Although Cynthia’s family life was very different from John’s, there was a family dynamic that they both had in common. Even though she never witnessed her own dad hit her mom during their entire marriage, the screaming and verbal abuse from her dad seemed to be a common occurrence.
They were driving down the highway in John’s parents’ car, when she experienced her first episode of physical abuse. “The car broke down on the side of the highway and he became very angry. We were walking down the side of the road and he started screaming and pushing me. To see him behaving this way was very frightening, to say the least.”
The relationship was starting to take its toll. By the time Cynthia was 19-years old, she prayed and asked God to help her leave the relationship. Her prayer was answered in the form of getting hired as a flight attendant with Braniff Airlines. This was her way out of KC and away from John, since she had to re-locate to Houston, TX.
“But the fear of going to Houston by myself, made me decide at the last minute to ask him to come with me,” she said with regret. John uprooted and followed her to Houston. It was then that the abuse only escalated.
“He was so jealous of me being a flight attendant, since I traveled a lot. He was very accusatory all the time. She remembered one story in particular, since she knew he fabricated it in his mind.
“He accused me of inviting the guy working construction across the street to come over for coffee one day. Neither of us even drank coffee back then. In fact, we didn’t even own a coffee pot.”
But then he had moments where he cried and apologized for his bad behavior. “I always believed him when he did.”
Over time, the vicious cycle of accusations and apologies wore her down. She began to doubt that he would ever change.
In 1980, Braniff Airlines had a lay-off and John and Cynthia had a son. But the home life went from bad to worse. Cynthia sought out a counselor during that time. One statement that he made stuck with her. “You haven’t given me one reason for you to stay with him.” Finally, at 23- years old and with a two-year old, she knew there weren’t any options left. She had one choice and it was to leave.
“There was no way I could have any kind of a civil conversation with him, so I had to plan my own escape. I opened a separate bank account and saved my money. Eventually, I was able to leave our house with my son and move into a small apartment. I worked two waitress jobs to try and make ends meet.”
But John wasn’t about to let go so easily. Cynthia was ready to start a new life. Instead, she lived in constant fear. John started stalking her non-stop.
One night after work, she came home to a very dark house, only to find him sitting alone in the living room without a single light on in her apartment. “To this day, I have no idea how he got in. I was petrified. At that point, I didn’t know what he would do to me. I had to make up one lie after another and tell him how much I missed him, how much I loved him and that leaving him was a big mistake.” It was the only way she could get him to calm down and go.
“Back then the courts were not very pro-woman. A restraining order didn’t work on him.”
On another occasion, John followed her in his car as she was leaving work. He chased her down the road and made lewd gestures. Cynthia drove to the police station thinking that it would be a safe haven. She didn’t expect what would happen after she ran inside. “I told the officers that I was being chased by my ex. They all started laughing at me. Not one of them took it seriously.”
A few years later, she found employment with another airline and transferred to Denver with their son. John saw their son on a regular basis and she heard that he spoke ill of her non-stop. “But I made sure that I never spoke badly about him to our son. I tried to focus on his good qualities.”
Cynthia stated she has benefited from talking about her relationship issues with other women. “I learned from talking to them, what was not normal behavior in a marriage. Back then I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about the abuse. I never even told my parents. To this day, I still ask myself why I put up with the stuff I did. I must have had low self-esteem. In addition, I didn’t have a supportive family to talk to.”
Today, she would like to be a part of helping others because of what she went through. ” I’ve now learned how to use my voice. By speaking up, I’m advocating for myself.”
by Kelle Lynn
The goal of this campaign is to convince our legislators in the state of Michigan to change People v Christel to model the California law in order to bring #Justice4Women.