Please say this out loud: I deserve respect, safety, and love. I deserve to be treated with kindness and gentleness.
It may be scary, it may be a long and difficult road, but you can emancipate yourself from abuse and begin your journey to healing.
Tiffany Barnes, a leader in the victim-advocacy community, joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to share her heart wrenching story of literally emancipating herself from her abusive parents, and then emancipating herself again from her abusive boyfriend. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
What Does It Mean to Emancipate Yourself From Abuse?
At BTR, we advocate for safety above all else.
When women choose safety and actively create a protective barrier between themselves and abusive behavior, they are emancipating themselves from abuse.
This can mean initiating a no-contact boundary, filing for divorce, separation, or setting boundaries within the relationship if they decide to stay.
Does It Feel Too Scary or Difficult To Emancipate Yourself From Emotional Abuse?
You’re not alone. Many women experience debilitating trauma when they even think about setting boundaries to separate themselves from abuse.
Why? Because abusers condition victims to feel powerless, worthless, and trapped.
I had to go through two years of lots of therapy to get myself right to the point that I could just even look in the mirror and not be disgusted at myself and feel like an unworthy person.Tiffany Barnes, founder of Share
Finding The Strength To Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
It may feel overwhelming, frightening, and devastating. But you can find the strength to emancipate yourself from abuse.
Many women weigh their options, putting others’ needs before their own need for safety. Some of these include:
- Wanting to spare their children the trauma of divorce and its aftermath
- Wanting to avoid financial hardship
- Wanting to “keep the peace” by “letting it go”
- Fear of the abuser’s retribution against self or children
Abuse teaches women that they are not worthy of safety, kindness, or respect. Women will hold tight to everyone else’s “needs” because abuse has conditioned them to do so.
Will It Hurt My Children IF I Emancipate Myself From Abuse?
Mothers worry that separating themselves from abusive behaviors may harm their children. This is understandable, divorce, separation, and other safety boundaries may feel disruptive and traumatic for children.
However, no matter what the circumstances, if their mother is being abused, the children are also being abused – even if the abuser never lays a hand on them. Simply existing in a space where abuse is present is detrimental and harmful to children.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Helps You Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
At BTR, we know that safety looks different for everyone. Some women opt for a no-contact divorce while others choose to stay married. No matter how you emancipate yourself from abuse, BTR is here to support you, validate you, and empower you.
The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets multiple times a day in every time zone. Join today and find a loving community of women who understand what you are going through as you begin your journey to safety and healing.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Peace And Healing Are Possible For Emotional Abuse Victims
Before I get to today’s guest, I want to talk about the progression of this podcast and how it’s evolved over time. You may hear in my voice that I’m so much more confident now and much happier than I had been before. My trauma symptoms have reduced greatly. I still have hard days but overall, I’m doing a lot better. Many of you who come to this podcast are brand new to finding out about your husband’s abuse, brand new to finding out about maybe an affair he had or his pornography use or something like that, so for some of you I would recommend starting at the very beginning of the podcast and listening to that evolution or the progression.
Rate The BTR Podcast
I appreciate all of you who have given a review or rating on Apple Podcasts. If you haven’t already and you’re so inclined, every single review helps women who are isolated find us. Women like you are searching for things online.
My goal, and the goal of our entire team here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, is to give every woman in the world who is searching for answers the correct information so that she can make decisions to get herself to safety. One of the ways we support women in getting to safety is through Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is our online daily support group.
Coach Rene Can Help You Navigate Physical Violence
Now, the guest on today’s podcast we’re going to be talking about physical violence. Physical abuse is not really what we process in Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. BTRG is a place for processing emotional and psychological abuse and sexual coercion in the form of your husband’s pornography use or affairs or even emotional affairs. So, if your experience includes a reportable crime, physical assault for example, or sexual assault, we recommend you also make an appointment with Coach Rene. She’s really good at helping women navigate their local resources like their domestic violence shelter or a therapist in their area that specializes in physical assault. You’re always welcome in Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, but it’s not really the place to process crime; so, I just want to throw that out there.
Now on to today’s guest.
Healing From Trauma Is Possible
Anne: I have Tiffany Barnes on today’s episode. She is familiar with overcoming hardships. After enduring physical, mental, and sexual abuse Tiffany was emancipated at the age of 15. At the time she was only the 2nd case in the state of Utah for a child of that age to become legally emancipated from her parents. While working three jobs to support herself through high school Tiffany became a sterling scholar, graduated top of her class, was an athlete, and a founder of Share; an advocacy group for students by students who had experienced abuse.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse And Shine
What began as a small group of students supporting each other (Share) has since grown and evolved into a 501c nation foundation that stands for sharing hope for the abused through resilience and empowerment. As a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympics, Tiffany has always been determined to shine a light in dark places helping others to light their flame from within. As an empowerment coach, she has expanded her effort and is now part of the Kindness Revolution, one of the longest-running national initiatives focused purely on kindness. Her first book, The Throw Away Girl, an inspiring autobiography is soon to be released.
She has a podcast for abuse survivors called Speak Loud. I was recently a guest on this, and I wanted to have her here so that she could share her story. Welcome, Tiffany.
Tiffany: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
You Can Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
Anne: So, Tiffany is going to share a little bit about her childhood abuse and becoming emancipated, which is an amazing story, and then we’re going to focus the rest of the episode on the abuses she experienced from her boyfriend and how she didn’t really realize what was going on. Then finally also emancipated herself from that situation.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Identifying The Abuse
So, Tiffany let’s start with your childhood abuse. Did you understand as a child that you were being abused?
Tiffany: I think the moment I realize that I was being abused was when my dad broke my arm. So, in answer to that question from my earliest memory until he broke my arm when I was six, I didn’t realize it, but then once that happened, I was like, okay, this isn’t like typical. This isn’t normal. He threw me across the room, and I hit a really solid wood door.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Listening To Your Gut
I didn’t know the word abused obviously at six, but I knew that what was happening couldn’t be right. I think the reason that I noticed that is because I had a cast on my arm. Kind of a long story short my dad would never take his anger out on my mom when he was mad at my mom. He put her up on a big pedestal, and so instead when he got mad, he would pick me up off of the floor from my coloring books and threw me across the room in anger from some sort of fight with my mom. He’s taking my mom and me to my grandmother’s house for the day because he worked a really weird shift of 3 pm to midnight, and so when he would go to work my mom and I would go to my grandmother’s house; my mom’s mom house.
Do Not Allow Others To Dictate Your Safety
We were driving a 1964 Ford, which my dad still drives, and the seat-belt in that car; the reason I tell you that is the seatbelts in the car are very difficult to push the button down to undo the seatbelt, and my dad started yelling at me because I couldn’t get the seatbelt button to go down and that was because my arm was broken. I’m saying I can’t do it and I’m crying and he’s getting pissed off at me. He finally goes and undoes the seatbelt and basically like yanks me out of the car and throws me to my mom, and my mom and I go inside my grandmother’s house. I’m bawling, my arm looks crazy, and my mom’s trying to say, oh, it’s nothing, it must be a sprain, and my grandmother was like no, this isn’t a sprain; we need to take her to the hospital right now.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Refusing To Condone & Hide It
So, they ended up taking me and I remember the whole time it was my grandmother by my side, not my mother. I don’t remember where my mother was, but my grandmother was the one that when they were giving me the anesthetic shot to be able to do what they needed to do to reform it and put the cast on or whatever it was that they did at the time. My grandmother was there trying to calm me down and wiping my tears and wiping my head and telling me I’m going to be okay. My dad picks us up that day at midnight and so I got woken up, you know Dad’s here, and we got to go home, and I come out with this cast on my arm. I distinctively remember my dad sitting on, my grandfather played the organ, and so my dad was sitting on this organ bench and saw this cast on my arm and just kind of looked down at the ground and didn’t say anything about it, but the next morning I was told to tell everybody that I fell out of a tree and that’s what happened to the arm.
Abusers Need Victims To Cover For Them
So, I would walk around with this cast on and my arm behind my back because I didn’t want to have to lie to people. I’m thinking, why are my parents asking me to say something different than what happened? So that was kind of my first ah-ha moment of okay well they’re asking me to lie about something that’s not true and threatened me if I didn’t say hey I fell out of the apricot tree in the backyard. So, it led me to believe that there was something more going on that wasn’t good.
So, the actual word abuse; no, I don’t think I knew it was abuse as far as the word, but I knew that what was going on wasn’t right. I was too scared to say anything.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Learning About Emotional Abuse
Anne: Were you aware of the emotional abuse that you were experiencing as a child? I’m assuming your mom was also being emotionally abused by your dad.
Tiffany: So, actually my mom was not abused by my dad at all that I know of. I think she would probably say the same thing. The reason that I say that is my mom was his princess. He put her on this pedestal as I mentioned. Gave her money to go buy clothes and do her hair and never made her work, and any time that they would get into a fight the most that would ever happen that I saw is he would yell, which was very rare, and he would then come back with flowers and apologize. He just really doted on her.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse Because You Deserve Safety
I was the punching bag. It felt like I was the punching bag for when he was upset with her. I was the one who took the brunt of things. So, I don’t think he was emotionally abusive to her, but I know my mother was emotionally abusive to me. You know, my mom was a very promiscuous woman. That’s actually how my parents got pregnant with me, and she cheated on my dad a lot with people in the congregation of the church we were in and these same people were the ones that were getting up in what was called our Sacrament meeting and saying things, but then I’d see them in bed with my mom during the week. So, she would say, “If you say anything, I will break your face.” That was her one common threat. I’ll break your face. I didn’t know what break your face meant, but I knew I didn’t want to get hit in the face because that was happening already from dad.
Emotional Abuse Is Just As Serious As Physical Battering
Mom would give me candies for example; my dad loved caramels, and he had this tin can of caramels that he’d keep on the front counter in the kitchen. My mom would open the tin up and say, “Here, do you want one?” You know I’m a kid, yeah, I want a freaking piece of candy. If you offered it to me, I’m going to take it. So, I’d take it and it’d eat it. It was delicious. Again, my dad worked that 3 to midnight shift, and I’d be sleeping in my bed, which was in the kitchen by the way; my bedroom was in the kitchen growing up. The front door was at the foot of my bed, so my dad would walk in and wake me up a little, and I’d just pretend to be asleep, and my mom would say, “Tiffany stole candy today,” or “Tiffany did this even though she shouldn’t have” or whatever the case was. Then my dad would yank me out of bed and beat me for taking candy I wasn’t supposed to take, yet my mom was the one who gave it to me and asked if I wanted it. So, she was very manipulative in that way.
Read Trauma Mama Husband Drama To Clear The Fog Of Abuse
Anne: I’m going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. It’s a picture book for adults, and so many women who have purchased it have said this helped me so much and I gave it to my sister or my clergy or my friend and it really helped them understand what I was going through. If you do purchase it, please remember to leave a review on Amazon. Every single one of those ratings helps women find us, and even if they don’t purchase the book it helps them find this free podcast.
Now back to our conversation.
Choosing To Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
Talk about your emancipation at 15. You said you were the second woman in the history of Utah to be able to be legally emancipated from your parents. Talk about how that went down.
Tiffany: When it started it wasn’t meant necessarily to be emancipation. Kind of a long story short is one of the men my mother was cheating on my dad with, whose name was also Robert; my dad’s name is Robert and my step-dad’s name is Robert, but my mom ended up going with him and he ended up molesting me when I was very young and molesting my sister later on in life as she came along. My mother did nothing to stop it with me. He was a military police officer and said, “If you say anything to anybody, I’ll kill you.” Well, he’s 6 foot 2 or 3, I don’t remember exactly, but he was tall and intimidating and had a temper. He was physically abusive to my mother, and so when he said, you say anything, I’ll kill you, well I believed him, you know. I kept my mouth shut.
Abusers Need Enablers To Protect Them & Keep Victims Stuck
My mother, who turned to drugs once she left my father. It started with speed and then it turned to marijuana and then it turned to cocaine. You know, it just kind of escalated. Today she’s still a drug addict on much heavier drugs. I thought my mom wouldn’t protect me if I said anything anyway. She came to me one day when I was getting ready for school and said, “What’s going on”. So, I told her because I thought she would protect me if she was asking about it, and basically confronted him. We had this family discussion and he turned to her and said, “She’s lying. I didn’t touch her, I didn’t molest her, everything she’s saying is a lie.” He told her that she had to make a choice between me or him, and she didn’t even hesitate 2 seconds, turned to me and said you have until tomorrow to get the “bleep” out of my house.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse Because You are Worthy of Love
So, at that point, I was 13 and in the 8th grade. She had a garage sale, sold my belongings in front of me, and I had basically a garbage bag full of clothes and I had a tootsie roll piggy bank that had some change in it. So, I walked past her and her yard sale of my belongings; it’s still just so crazy to me that she did that, but I took my coins from my piggy bank and got on the UTA bus, which is our local bus system here in Utah, and went and lived with my biological father up in Layton. So, the guy that was physically abusive to me. I just thought I’m either going to be homeless or I’ve got to go live with Dad, I don’t have a lot of options, and so I took the risk and went and lived with Dad. Luckily he wasn’t physically abusive towards me anymore, and I think a lot of that stems back to what I just said, his anger against my mother was taken out on me because once Mom was gone and they divorced he never touched me again.
Abuse Makes Victims Feel Worthless
That’s kind of why I equate it that way, but because he took me in I became a latch key kid, meaning I’d wake up and Dad was gone for work and I came home from school, and Dad was still gone to work because he worked 2 jobs. So, being 13 and going through sexual abuse from my step-father and then not being believed when I say something and getting kicked out, and basically felt like I was worth nothing if the woman who brought me life and brought me to the planet doesn’t want me then what’s the point.
I became anorexic and suicidal and had a lot of mental, I don’t want to say issues, but things I was just having a hard time dealing with. So, I guess in some form issues. There was a morning I woke up and I said, today’s going to be the day I’m going to end my life. I just don’t want to be here anymore; I just don’t see the point. I had that, you know, that devil and that angel. The angel on my shoulder said, yeah, but if you kill yourself, you’re letting all of this defeat you and you’re letting them all win. It wasn’t those exact words, but something along those lines, and I realized it was time to get help. Either get help or just be done with it. I knew that this didn’t need to define me.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse Because You Love Yourself
It was a weird, strange moment. I don’t know how to really explain. It was very surreal. I reached out to a social worker and had to go through two years of lots of therapy to get myself right to the point that I could just even look in the mirror and not be disgusted at myself and feel like an unworthy person. At that time, I was 15, and I said, what’s next. I knew it wasn’t good to go back to Dad and obviously couldn’t go with Mom, so he mentioned foster care, and foster care was not anything I wanted to do for the very reason because when Mom left Dad we bounced around a lot because she’d go from man to man and then go back to the other man. She just couldn’t keep steady relationships in her romantic relationships, and so I went to 23 different elementary schools in a very short period of time, and I knew when you were in foster care you get bounced around a lot. Not always, but generally that’s what happens, and plus I didn’t want to live with a strange family. I had separation issues, attachment issues, you know many things as you can see from what I went through.
Find Advocates As You Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
I said there has got to be another way, there has got to be something else. I don’t want to be a foster kid. He said well, you could do emancipation. I said, what? I didn’t even know what that meant and so he explained it to me. He said, but I need to let you know the odds are stacked against you as there is only one other case in the state of Utah at your age that’s ever won emancipation at the time. I thought, well, what’s the worst that can happen. They’re going to tell me no and then I’ll have to go into foster care. So, I went for it, and I was awarded essentially custody of myself and became the 2nd case in the state of Utah in 1997 or 1998.
Anne: How did that feel?
At First It May Feel Terrifying & Wrong To Emancipate Yourself From Abuse
Anne: It felt scary and sad and great all at the same time kind of a thing?
Tiffany: Yeah, for sure. I think it was a relief for one, and again one thing I didn’t mention was a big reason why I did that was because my mom is very vindictive, unfortunately, and I didn’t want her to say I was a runaway and then I’d have to go into juvenile detention or however that process works. So, I felt relief because I felt mom didn’t have those chains or that hold or that control. I just really felt like there was a big separation. I felt so much relief that I didn’t have to be around her, see her, or any of the following, which is sad; she’s my mother. You know, she’s the reason I’m on the planet, but she’s not my mom, and I see a big difference in those two words.
Anne: So, you’re on your own. When do you get involved with your abusive boyfriend, who you did not know was abusive when you met him?
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Recognizing The Abuse
Tiffany. So, again that was 15 when I got emancipated and a year or so after that I started my non-profit, which you mentioned in the beginning, and because of that non-profit I got to run the torch in the Olympics, and that’s when I was dating Danny. I ran the torch in 2002, I met him in 2001. I’m a huge Dave Matthews Band fan, and so is he, and he was living in Louisville, KY. A friend of mine from the singles congregation had said, hey, Dave Matthews is coming into town; did you see that? I’m like, oh, yeah, I saw, and I want some tickets, but it looks like it’s going to be sold out. He’s like, well, I can get you a ticket and I’ve got a couple of buddies of mine coming in from out of town, and I want to go. He was from Louisville. I said heck yeah. So, I paid for the ticket, and he and his two friends came and picked me up, and one of the guys was Danny in the backseat.
Abusers Are Often Charming & Romantic
I remember at that concert he was singing one of my favorite songs. He was standing next to me and it was almost like he was singing it in my ear, not that he was, but it was like this little romantic moment. You know, my favorite band, he was cute, we both loved Dave. We just stayed in touch. Had a long-distance relationship as far as just writing letters and talking on the phone. He was the first man I’d ever fallen in love with, you know. The man I lost my virginity to. So, there was a lot of attachment there, and he ended up as a surprise packing up his little Honda civic and driving across the country and knocked on my door. I was renting a basement room, in a room with some other girls. He was like, surprise! I was like, oh my gosh you’re here?! This is so awesome. He was like, no I’m moving here. I’m like, what? It was so awesome, and I was so excited about it.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse By Learning About Abusive Grooming Behaviors
We ended up moving in together and renting a basement apartment and his friend rented the other room. It was a two-bedroom apartment. We shared one room and then he had the other. It wasn’t until he moved here to Utah that that romanticism and that like, oh, I can’t wait to eat breakfast in the same room as you, I can’t wait to go do this or that, or all the things you want to do when you’re in a long-distance relationship. Once he was here it was like the monster came out. I started to see who he really was.
Anne: Did you ever consider that talking on the phone and all of that before he moved here was grooming?
Tiffany: You know, I didn’t.
Anne: Well, you wouldn’t until hindsight obviously.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse Because You Deserve Authentic Love
Tiffany: Right. No, I didn’t see any grooming though because he treated me like gold. He honestly did. He wrote me poems, he sent me flowers. You know, all of those little cutesy things. So I was like, this guy is like perfect. He flew here to take me to Homecoming at University, but he was here for moments, right. He was here for 3 days, 5 days. You know, short spurts, so it’s easy to have lots of, oh, every little moment is amazing with you. There were no issues before he moved here. We didn’t fight over the phone; he didn’t say mean things over the phone. It wasn’t until he got me one-on-one in person that it started.
Emancipate Yourself From Abuse So That you Can Celebrate Your Successes Without Your Abuser Harming You
I very distinctively remember it started the day I ran the torch, so February of 2002. I can’t remember how it happened, but we’d just gotten home and were in the basement and we started arguing about something and he came over to me and shoved me and the torch fell out of my hand. I was so worried that the glass on the torch was going to break because somebody had paid for me to keep the torch and it was like, wow, this is so cool. He shoved me and that torch flew out of my hand and I was like, whoa. Then I started crying and he came over and put his hand over my mouth and said something to the phrase of, you stop your crying. It was like it wasn’t okay for me to shed emotion and tears. It was such a big day in my life, and it was like he was trying to take away my moment if you will.
Emancipate Yourself From The Pain of Betrayal
Anne: We see that a lot. Where on a holiday or on a birthday or something they might not shove them, like shoving is pretty overt abuse obviously, but they might do something to throw you off and emotionally ruin your day.
We’re going to pause the conversation here and continue to talk about Tiffany’s abusive relationship with her boyfriend, which does involve pornography use. So, we’re going to get to that part of the story, so stay tuned for next week.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it; and until next week, stay safe out there.
Ladies, thank you for your story. This has helped me recognize some things in my own life that I want to work through. In the late 90’s I was living with an abusive bf, my mom kicked me out for not cleaning the bathroom ,shortly after my 16th bday. I left happily. Real dad, a police officer in my city, didn’t want to pay child support anymore. Asked me to sign for emancipation. I signed. I’m still working through this stuff in my head