Domestic Violence Survivor Finds Her Power

Cathy Riley-Green encountered bullies in middle school and high school. She moved from Minnesota to Mississippi shortly after graduation. There she matured, made long-term friends, and married. At church she acquired a newfound faith that would sustain her in future times. But she became restless and asked for a divorce. In hindsight this is one of her regrets.

Her next marriage was not a healthy one. Riley-Green said she tried to survive, repair and save. One attempt she made was couple’s counseling through church. The church’s advice was to make the marriage work.

Sometimes people encounter a power greater than themselves that insures their survival. Riley-Green says that experience occurred for her in 2014, after her husband — now imprisoned — attacked her with a machete and left her for dead.

From her bed in the hospital, recovering from the attack, she called her pastor and told him, “I came to the church for marriage counseling and was told to work it out. Look at this. You can’t just counsel folks to not get divorced.”

Yet her faith endured. She believes a divine power organized circumstances after the attack in a way to guarantee her survival. A neighbor saw the fire department at her house and called Riley-Green’s daughter and mother. The trauma hospital was nearby. The physical therapy nurses were angels, she says, who put her through an exhausting recovery routine.

She had grueling psychological therapy called “flooding.” Day after day she processed the event and got stronger. She credits that therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) with “feeling mentally healthy now.”

Riley-Green sees that everyone’s trauma and recovery is different. For her, spirituality offers power. “I have deep, deep gratitude for my life.”

Now based in Anoka, she thinks her resilience to face the attack, and life after, also was due to having a strong mother in whose eyes “failure or quitting would not have been an option.”

Today, she says, life is too short to sweat the small stuff. She goes to community college and does outreach for women in domestic violence situations. Among her new life goals, Riley-Green wants a change in the response to domestic violence. She wants to shift the focus to ask why men abuse women and put responsibility on the person who causes harm.