“I left an abusive husband on Father’s Day,”said Melody Benes, a Rocky Mountain College freshman.
Benes, 26, came to Rocky Mountain College in 2010 after graduating from high school in Roundup. She dropped out before finishing her first semester, but has returned eight years later determined to complete her formal education.
Benes is currently majoring in political science with a minor in pre-law.
Looking back on her experiences, Benes remarked, “The summer before I started college, I met my now ex-husband. It was the first serious relationship I ever had. I don’t think I had the maturity level to appreciate a college education and I was distracted by him. I was also really intimidated by college; I didn’t think I could handle it.”
Benes had started in August 2010 and dropped out by the middle of October. “I regretted it,” said Benes. “It was a long eight years.”
Benes had left Billings and moved to Lewistown with her husband. In addition to the abuse from her husband gradually escalating over the years; Benes struggled to make headway without a college degree, but delayed resuming her studies.
“I didn’t like the idea of going to college online and I always found an excuse to put it off, said Benes. “I’ve had several jobs and you cannot get anywhere without a college degree. I want to change the world and what better way to do that then to educate myself first.”
Benes explained that after she had her daughter, Emma Rose, she underwent an emotional and intellectual rebirth which was the catalyst for empowering her to leave her abuser and return to school.
“She helped solidify a lot of things in my life and gave me motivation for what kind of role model I am going to be for her. I want to prove to my daughter you can be whatever you aspire to be.”
Benes, while working at Gainan’s Garden Center a year ago, ended up running into RMC President Bob Wilmouth, who encouraged her enroll in Rocky again.
“I didn’t realize it was him,” she said. “I was telling him [Wilmouth] how I wanted to go to law school, how I had gone to Rocky but dropped out. He said you should come back and the other guy with him blew his cover. I told him I would love to go back because Rocky is my dream school.”
“I love the community built around Rocky and I’ve always been really proud of seeing Rocky’s involvement in Billings as well. Community involvement is really important to me.” said Benes.
After leaving her abuser and resuming her education, Benes wants to use her experiences to mentor other young women going through domestic violence situations.
“I want to mentor young girls,” explained Benes. “I can’t stress enough about having a good, solid foundation of understanding who you are. And that’s going to change as you get older as well. You have to love and respect yourself. You don’t ever have to lower your bars or your standards to help your partner fit into what you expect.”
“My ex-husband had a very sketchy past, she continued. “Initially I would not have been with someone like that, but I thought he was different and that he’d change. Part of the reason why the abuse started getting more physical was because of his addictions. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I really wish I would not have lowered my standards to accommodate him. At the same time, I’m grateful for my experience because I have an amazing daughter.”
Benes is grateful for the help she received from the Yellowstone Women and Children Association (YWCA).
“I’m really lucky to have the community and the YWCA,” said Benes. “Without them I would not be living in my beautiful apartment. I would not have had the legal advice I needed to file for my own divorce. I would not have had the counseling resources to deal with the abuse.”
Benes talked about the importance of community programs for women going through abusive situations.
“We need to as community be more of a support system because it’s hard enough to leave a situation like that, she continued. “It’s still kind of taboo to even talk about being raped, being abused, and being through out of your house in 30 below weather. I know women who have been through worse; I left before it could get worse. We need to, as a community, start being more open so people who are suffering through that feel that they have somewhere to go. That was the hardest part for me; when I left my ex-husband my parents and grandparents didn’t understand.”
If you are going through an abusive relationship or any domestic violence incidents, there are people who can help you. Contact the YWCA at 245.4472 or www.ywcabillings.org.