WINONA LAKE — Amy Batten’s voice quivered momentarily while she explained the life-changing experiences she faced two dozen years ago.
A large image of Batten loomed above on a large screen as Batten spoke at Beaman Home’s annual Angels of Hope Luncheon at Christ’s Covenant Church Wednesday, April 17, and revisited her relationship with a young man.
The younger girl had braces and a bright smile, but behind the smile was a story that still makes Batten shudder today.
“Despite everything, I am grateful for everything I learned at 14 years old. I learned I was a fighter. I was not ever going to let anyone ever put their hands on me again,” Batten told the audience of several hundred.
“And this experience gave me red flags. Things that would set every hair on my body on end and tell me when it was time to get the hell out of future relationships,” she said.
Batten lived in a small farm town in Oregon and was a freshman when she began dating Josh, a senior on the basketball team who introduced her to some of the classic characteristics of an abuser.
She recalls his interest and persistence made her feel special. “We weren’t dating long before the threats began and quickly, the threats became much more physical,” Batten said.
Josh became manipulative and controlling. He told her what to wear, who to talk to and where to sit. And then he began accusing her of cheating on him. “I have eyes everywhere and I’ll know if you’ve done something you’re not supposed to,” he told her.
She said she felt isolated and vulnerable to his demands. He kept a knife and brass knuckles in the truck that he told her were just for her.
She remembers going to school once with his finger impressions still on her neck.
Another time, she said he came by her lab class and saw her laughing with a boy who was her lab mate. “That got me punched in the stomach,” she said.
Things hit a boiling point when she stayed at a friend’s house overnight one night and Josh showed up. After a confrontation, she recalls he parked his truck at the corner and waited all night.
The stalking and threats continued, and her mother hired an attorney who sent a letter to Josh’s parents warning that he should leave her alone. But at the time, Oregon did not have laws against stalking, she said.
She recalled walking home from a movie with a friend when they were confronted by Josh and escaped by jumping into another car whose driver took her home. Days later, she said they learned Josh had been arrested for illegal possession of a handgun that night.
Even after circumstances calmed down during her junior and senior year, she said she endured nasty rumors and a nickname that haunted her through high school.
“I knew then I would never get to be a normal teenager and I thought my nightmare would never end,” she said.
For years, she was leery of dating anyone for fear of putting them in danger.
“I felt alone and felt like a freak. I wish I had known of a program like the one Beaman Home offers for teens,” she said.
Beaman Home in the past year provided more than 6,000 nights of shelter to 257 women fleeing abusive environments. The agency has a wide array of programs that serve women, men and children.
Eventually, Batten moved to Indianapolis for school and met her future husband, Jeff. They have two boys and she works for Zimmer Biomet.
“As a mom of boys, I believe it is my duty to raise good men,” said Batten. “I started talking to my boys at a young age about appropriate touches. Our kids will grow up knowing you never raise a hand to someone you love.”