of J.B. TOLS.
I am an interior designer, photographer, blogger, advocate, adventurer, and mom to five boys. I love advocating for others and exploring new places--both near and far.

My name is


October 3, 2019

I was 21 years old when I met my abuser. The year was 1996. It wasn’t until 2009 before I was able to finally get away. So, I stayed for 13 years before getting the courage to fully break away. This is the story about my experience with abuse.

It was not my first marriage. I was married before, for four years.

My first marriage was pretty typical; just two people who grew apart and got bored and lonely; He cheated and I invested every ounce of my being into my kids. 

So, when my abuser came into my life, I soaked up every bit of attention that he gave me–and he gave me a lot. He was a professional man with enough money to take me out to dinner, regularly. If not going out to eat, he would make me nice dinners in his home. He drank red wine, went to the theater and opera and tried to act very knowledgeable of such things. He would put on this air of sophistication when he would invite me to his house for dinner or take me out into public; I wasn’t used to that. My family has always been “good ol’ boy” types. My Dad was in construction and was usually all dirty and dusty–rarely ever dressed up. And, my first husband was the same. Admittedly, I was attracted to the space that he occupied and how that made me feel.


The thing that sealed the deal for me, though, was that he had three kids that I fell head over heels in love with. He had two daughters and a son. And, at first glance, he appeared to be a very good dad. He was a very involved dad, for sure; I can say that with great assurance. He was a dad who was always doing activities with his kids. When they were down, we were always taking hikes, watching movies together, having cook outs around the fire together or splashing through the creeks. I fell in love with that, too.

My dad never did things like that and my ex-husband had not either; they were both loving fathers, but never hands on fathers. My love for my children, love for quality family time together, and love for his children made me drunk and blind to all of the warning signs—and there were warning signs, for sure.


I must say though that even with warning signs, the warning signs don’t often make sense until you are already in the thick of a mess or safely making your way out the other side of the relationship. So, I have grace for myself; and, if you have been in a similar situation, you deserve to give yourself grace, too. Signs or not, we don’t usually know that they are signs until it is too late.

Some things that I saw, before we were married, that should have concerned me was that my abuser was very jealous of my children. When we would come over to his home, he didn’t want the children to play in the living room where we were hanging out. He wanted to have time with me alone. Because of that, he would have my children play in his children’s rooms while we were there.

He expected them to be playing there and he would get agitated if they came out. This was something that we fought a lot about and I would not let down my stand that my children were not going to be hidden in the back room. Despite my firm stand, he would always try to intellectualize his reasons and to make me feel stupid—which I now know to be ‘gaslighting’. He would try to make me feel ignorant for not ‘getting it’, for not appreciating the quality time that he was trying to show me and I would, eventually, forgive him.

I have heard from many other women who said that abuse started the wedding night. My story is no different. Luckily, I was not physically abused or sexually abused the night of our wedding though, but it typically starts out gradual, right?


We were married in our home that was tucked far in the woods. After everyone left, my abuser started to drink until he was drunk. Some kids had driven down our long driveway. When my husband saw them, he ran outside in a robe wielding a gun saying that he was going to shoot them. I begged and pleaded for him to come back inside of the house, but he would not. Very frightened, I ran inside of the house and called the police for help. The kids had been hunting and they had guns, as well. I really feared that the situation was going to go too far.

The police came and mediated the situation. The kids went their way and my husband came back down to the house. My abuser came in the house, drank some more, screamed at me for calling the police and then passed out asleep.

And, so it began…my dreams of a loving relationship foreshadowed.


Over the thirteen years that followed, he spit in my face multiple times; had my hair pulled over and over; had been forced to have sex once; was not allowed to shower alone for the first three to four years; had my nose busted open once; was locked out of my home multiple times; had my belongings destroyed multiple times; financially, was manipulated in various creative ways (which I will go into more details about in other posts); had my keys thrown into a cornfield so that I couldn’t escape my home once; I was locked in a room and not allowed to come out; was told over and over that I was a “nothing” and that I never would be anyone or anything; and that no one would want me except my abuser and many, many other things.

After thirteen years, I was emotionally exhausted. I had lost all hope. Actually, I didn’t even want to live anymore. I am a Christian. So, not only was I having trouble reconciling within myself that I had allowed this to go on as long as I had, I didn’t understand why God had allowed this to go on as long as He had.

It was in the moment when I realized that I didn’t want to be alive anymore (not suicidal, mind you…there is a difference) that I knew that I had to make it all stop; and, that if I didn’t make it stop, I would move from not wanting to live anymore to taking my life…and, I couldn’t do that to my children.


So, I called my mother, who brought a truck to my house (Thank God for Mother’s, by the way) and loaded up the children’s belongings and what belongings of mine that I could load into the truck and we put that life behind us.

And, so, I am passionate about helping women in similar situations. I have tried to help womens’ shelters and I am always donating to women’s shelters, but doors always seemed to close when I tried to volunteer within the shelters. And, then I found that doors did open when I would help women one on one, in quiet times, talking to them and sharing my own experiences and giving advice. So, that is where I have concentrated my efforts; and, that is why I have included the domestic violence topic to this, otherwise, very happy blog.

If my words and experiences can help one person, then it is worth it.

Comment, reach out, tell your story, ask questions or send some love in the comment section below. May the trials that we have overcome lead someone else to victory.

God Bless—-

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