LIVINGSTON COUNTY – A Livingston County woman is doing what can be the hardest things for a victim of domestic violence to do. She is leaving her abuser, pressing criminal charges, and changing her life for the better.
Tracy Cayea Radley's recovery is not just about her. She is sharing her story to pass along the message that got her to finally make the leap and leave: you are a somebody, you have worth, and you are not alone.
"People asked me why I kept going back to Ray. It's domestic violence. I was scared," said Tracy.
It's domestic violence. I was scared," said Tracy. "But you know what, after 30 years of being beaten on and called the scum of the earth by someone who is supposed to love me, I had enough. I know that a lot of victims of domestic violence do not get the chance to say this, but I want to take a stand for myself. Maybe I can help somebody else take a stand too. If I help one person, I'm happy. If I help two, even better."
Though she is still technically married to her abuser, Tracy says that it is giving everything she has to surmount and transcend the dependence on substances and her husband that typified her 30-year relationship and re-connect with her own family. She says that one of the biggest challenges for a victim of domestic violence is to recognize and admit that the violence is happening.
"You have to see when they are taking your freedom away. If I didn't do what he said, I got beat on. He made me sell my car. I didn't own a thing," said Tracy. "It's sad how far into denial you can get. You get quick on your feet, you tell these little lies or coverups, you say, 'oh, I fell' when someone sees your bruised arm or black eye."
Tracy's advice to a victim of domestic abuse: leave.
"You have to leave them," said Tracy. "Even if you do it in the middle of the night, or while they're out at work, even if you have to leave with nothing but the clothes on your back. I know what it's like to have nothing and walk away from a scary situation, and you have to do it. At the end of the day, you learn that you are something to somebody, even if it's just somebody down the street. I learned that I am a someone, and I am worth something."
She says that positioning herself to help other victims of domestic violence helps her own healing process. She is reaching out to Livingston County organizations to volunteer and maybe coordinate a domestic violence assistance program of her own.
"I think about when I left, what I needed to have, what I needed to hear," said Tracy. "I left with nothing, he didn't let me have anything for myself. Maybe I could collect people's spare clothes and give them to people leaving like I did. Women's clothes, men's, domestic violence can happen to anybody."
In the meantime, Tracy is enjoying freedoms that she never had before and invites others who feel they are locked in an abusive relationship to do the same.
"If I was still with him, my phone would be blowing up right now. He would want to know where I am, who I'm with, what I'm talking about," said Tracy. "I have a car, I can go shopping with my girlfriends if I want. I drove myself out for a few drinks with my friend and watched the Syracuse game. I had forgotten what it was like to do that. I have come a long way, and have a long way to go. I'm reestablishing my relationships with my sons and my siblings. I want to go to school to be licensed practicing nurse. I'm far from done bettering myself."