Teri Jendusa-Nicolai’s 8-year-old daughter recently whispered into her mother’s ear: “You’re my hero.”
Jendusa-Nicolai’s two daughters occasionally go with her when she speaks about domestic violence at churches, clubs, schools and police workshops. During one children’s sermon, they helped act out nonviolent ways to resolve conflict.
“I’ve told them I’m helping other families, and about not being ashamed to talk about it,” says the member of Norway Lutheran Church, Wind Lake, Wis. “What happened was horrible, but God has made good things come out of it.”
Jendusa-Nicolai was happily married to her husband Nick, when in February 2004 former husband David Larsen kidnapped, beat and duct-taped her inside a garbage can in a freezing storage locker ("‘How can I not be happy?’" April 2004). She suffered a miscarriage, hypothermia and lost toes. Larsen was sentenced to 37 years in prison.
“Even if I had been killed, living with a physically violent, emotionally abusive person would have been worse,” Jendusa-Nicolai says. “You live in constant fear, and what does that teach your children? They ... marry the same type of man. I feel like I saved my girls’ lives. They now have two healthy parents to care for them. They’re happy kids, doing well in school. Hopefully when they’re older they’ll choose healthy relationships.
“When I was abused, I remember always running down to the basement and crying, wondering: why, why, why is this happening? When [I survived] I didn’t wonder why. I knew God was calling me to help other families and share how faith brings you through things.”
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers