Founder Jodi Jordheim shares her personal story of domestic violence, the path forward, and the future of Styled with Strength
On this morning 10 years ago, I woke up numb.
But I was finally safe.
The 3 year long nightmare was over.
If only I knew the work was just beginning.
I entered college as 50% of my high school cutest couple and landed a dream spot on the UND Hockey Cheer team- something I had dreamed of since I got my first uniform in 1st grade. How was I here? At the time, failing out of college, scheduling counseling appointments, legal advocacy meetings, filing additional restraining orders, at a place called the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center- something I didn’t know existed until a police officer handed me the phone to speak to them after taking photos of my body for injuries just 12 hours earlier.
The perception of what domestic violence looks like is so jaded, and I wish I could say I didn’t have that perception myself. The quiet/meek girl and the alcoholic husband were the tapes I had pictured mentally, and so to reach the understanding, it was me; was mortifying. I was confident, loud, and a bit of a hurricane no bull-shit taker myself- nothing about me would look like someone who would ever place themselves in that dynamic.
I would be confident that if any survivor of domestic violence shared their story, they would tell you one thing. The emotional and verbal manipulation is stronger and harder to overcome than any form or situation of physical violence we endured. That’s where it starts- the belief that you are fully dependent on one person’s value or perception- you reach a place where nothing else matters and fixing and healing your relationship and being a great girlfriend or spouse is your only goal.
On the outside it likely looked just like the world’s most dysfunctional long distance relationship of 2 20-somethings that had absolutely nothing in common. The dependency and loss of confidence happened quickly and was disguised as immaturity. Breaking up with me while out drinking with friends and hooking up with someone I knew (and sometimes was friends with) was the method that drove my own unhealthy behaviors and commitment to trying to fix this broken person, but in the process became so unhealthy and broken myself.
I constantly felt like I was Dr Clue- trying to identify the latest lie he was sharing or the next person that he was seeing or talking to within our relationship. From reading text messages at his grandma’s funeral with another girl about how ugly I was, to changing every plan or commitment I had to accommodate the days he decided I was worthy to be his girlfriend and attend a family function with him. I handled life with partying and alcohol, revenge girl trips, not eating, and becoming completely consumed with growing my career at work. I was a size double zero pant and had achieved 3 promotions in 3 years over the course of our relationship.
We were broken up and continued to be dysfunctional; it seemed every time I grew stronger, the approach changed—and I fell for it every time. We had our one millionth “meet to talk about things dinner” that week (because public was the only place I felt safe) and shortly after- I found it- another girl. Another betrayal and untruth. It was done. (again.) After a dramatic blow up that things would never change, I got back to Fargo unsettled.
His standard approach anytime I tried to eliminate contact or end all moments for good, was to threaten to come and sit outside my store (Victoria’s Secret) and embarrass me in front of the team that I led, or to sit out front my apartment door until I would talk to him, and eventually escalated to printing embarrassing photos of me and bringing them to my mom, to the largest threat of all- hurting my sister and her baby. An unexpected April blizzard was set to happen that afternoon, yet he was determined to prove how worthy of a boyfriend he was in person and most of all- he was mad.
He sent me 3 separate text messages of where he was at on the interstate, the road conditions worsening and the towns he was passing were closer and closer to me. I knew what was coming but continued to be determined to solve these problems myself. My roommate was gone at the time he arrived, and based on his demeanor I knew I had to either pretend the lie never happened to avoid conflict or I could affirm my stance and ask him to leave me alone.
We had transitioned to my room to watch a movie, yet another fight broke out again. This time, details are a bit hazy but I was attempting to call 911 and he was on top of me with his hands around my throat and continuing to slap or punch anytime I made a cry for help.
There was a knock on my bedroom door.
Immediately he released me and I went to the door expecting to see my roommate who I firmly believe God placed us together intentionally as she was the person that saw the unhealth front row everyday and eventually- she saved my life. I opened the door trying to figure out the lie I was going to tell and there were 2 police officers, they had heard the whole thing. I burst into tears and immediately left the room.
The remaining parts are a bit hazy as the body and mind have a unique ability of protecting us from things that might be truly too hard to remember. My sister had been called and was on her way, once she arrived she was with me as officers took photos of my neck, arms, and face- as the marks and swelling were still present.
As things progressed, there I was telling someone how broken I was and how messy and ugly my life (and myself) had become. He was arrested and charged with 2 felonies of Assault and Terrorizing (later dropped down to Simple Assault and Menancing in part to his top of the line (and expensive) defense attorney, military background, and clean record previously) The next days seem a bit of a blur, but were navigated by applying for an additional restraining order and the worst of all- coming clean to my family and my closest friends what was really happening.
The hardest to tell was my Dad, who had been supportive in front of me- but repeatedly told other family members that he was sure this guy wasn’t the one. I started counseling, trying to understand how this situation became my life, how I was going to need to heal to have healthy relationships in the future, and the process of getting over the guilt and deep shame of how you operate and carry yourself in those situations. My boss was extremely understanding when I shared I would need a few days for my neck bruising to heal and get some affairs in order- that was one part of my life that I clung to with all that I had. My career was growing despite the destructive decisions and choices I was making.
The Healing and Forgiveness
I was so absolutely embarrassed of this situation and the hell I had put my friends and family through the past 3 years it was hard to even find the next step. I continued counseling, focused on finishing my degree (Re-reading my transcript- you could predict from the first time I met him to the day it all ended, a sad story of a very broken and dependent girl.) I moved to a new state and had what seemed like a fresh start.
For someone who is so unbelievably open about the messy parts of their life- (I mean I told you about my teeth last week!) This is one that has been so close to the chest- only revealed to those that loved me through the storm, my husband when we had to navigate things that I had to adjust and heal from to be in a healthy relationship, or in those moments I was with someone that was navigating the same thing.
It's a secret sisterhood that no one signed up for and would love to have their membership revoked. But here we are- 10 years later and the words I’ve shared so far, are truly just the tip of the iceberg of the story. On Giving Hearts Day this year- I sent a thank you note that was 10 years overdue to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, to thank them for the genuine care their entire staff provided to me in April 2013; providing them an update of my healthy family and career focus of helping people. It took me 10 years to thank the people that saw me at the worst, there was a level of avoidance of those that were with me in that mess- the shame of them seeing my unhealth and continuing to be my friend and love me anyways- is an act of service I could never repay them for.
There are parts and scars that are still so buried and so broken but if I am not brave enough to stand in my truth (the full truth) How will anybody else know they are not alone? How will anyone else know that someone understands to be utterly in love and consumed with the person that continues to take joy in your pain. I have forgiven the person that this story is centered around, and I’ve forgiven those that maybe disagree with me telling my truth and also owning my own mess at the same time. But I’m still forgiving me- not for getting involved in a situation like that- but for the fear and the silence that I’ve had in telling my story. No one wants to typically be the face or voice of domestic violence- but that is why the problem remains, the offenders have power, and the criminal justice system can’t keep up.
Styled with Strength
The original purpose of Styled with Strength took root when I was volunteering with the YWCA Cass Clay- I decided that confidence in how we feel about ourselves is often so intertwined to a woman’s recovery and healing. We had done resume classes, interview tips, but my love of fashion and my heart led the way- knowing that each person who had likely entered with a garbage bag of their belongings- was leaving with an outfit or accessory that they loved and felt confident in-is where we went! To be honest- (as you have likely noticed..) Styled with Strength has ebbed and flowed from being vocal and existing, to total silence in the moments that fear overtook my desire to tell the truth and make a difference.
I have been blessed to know and be surrounded by an entire community of strong women who are so wildly talented and gifted within their own professions. Sometimes, I can’t believe these incredible badass women choose me as their friend. They all have one thing in common (maybe a friendship requirement per say..) they care deeply for other women, and truly believe there is a seat for everyone at the table. The merging of these 2 worlds posed some exciting possibilities and a bigger dream:
What would it look like if these 2 incredible worlds combined? Where women of influence, success, resources and confidence- empowered and cared for women who they met at their absolute lowest. Authentically. Without Judgement.
What if the best HR leaders helped women escaping DV negotiate their salary?
or explain their scheduling needs (while not ideal- are necessary for childcare)
Introduced women beginning with businesses and organizations that could help.
Women that could see, love, and deeply care about their shame and help them walk through loving themselves again.
What if workplaces and leaders were equipped at creating safe places for women in the workplace that are in an abusive relationship to navigate their safety plan confidentially?
What if supporting and loving one another’s businesses and shopping could help impact the ability to provide care services to a woman escaping a relationship?
So that’s where I’m at this morning 10 years later- messy, broken, and determined to fight like hell for others and normalize a topic that is still so hidden within our midst. Waking up today, in a home with a husband who met me at my lowest and loved me through my healing, with a little boy who will always understand safe relationships and treat women (and men) well and with care. We’re heading towards a future that I’ve dreamed about my entire life- a future that is centered around her, her goals, her dreams, and most of all- her safety.
If this part of my story came as a complete shock to you (I’m so sorry- but grateful to finally share these messy and broken up words with you today) I look forward to continuing the conversation and the healing journey and growth I’m walking- but the story that I’ve kept- is a secret no more.
Am I scared? Yes.
Am I worried you view me differently? Sure.
Am I proud of myself for walking through the fire- and despite it taking me a bit (like a decade...) that I’m standing in that truth with you today- unashamed?