April Giauque: Escaping The Darkness of Domestic Abuse
It is difficult to ignore the similarities between April Giauque’s description of an abuser’s behavior and Satan’s efforts to wear us down: isolation, manipulation, control, despair. Regardless of whether you feel held captive in an abusive situation like April or trapped by sin or discouragement, April’s story reminds us that there is always hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Find April's book, "Pinpoints of Light" here.
Read April's article, "Finding Pinpoints of Light," here.
Read Morgan Jones' blog post referenced in the podcast here.
1:33- The beginning of abuse
4:08- Children with special needs
5:38- Everyday life
6:29- Two different types of abusers
8:59- Relationship with God
11:35- Knowing when it was time to leave
13:53- The voice of the adversary
15:18- The biggest fear of a victim
19:14- Saving a marriage
22:52- Looking for evidence of blessings
26:03- Caring for yourself in order to care for others
27:54- Self-esteem vs. self-worth
29:19- Agency amidst abuse
32:40- Life after abuse
35:32- Advice for victims
44:14- What Does It Mean To Be All In The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
April Giauque stayed quiet for 12 years after escaping an abusive marriage. But a year and a half ago, she felt it was time to share her story. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. April wrote her book "Pinpoints of Light," in hopes of helping some of these people. April Giauque is a survivor of domestic abuse who is now remarried to Scott Giauque. Together, they have nine children, five of whom have special needs, and April now has a master's degree in special education.
This is "All In," an LDS living podcast where we ask the question what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm Morgan Jones, and I'm grateful to have April Giauque with me today. April, Welcome.
AG: Hello, thank you so much for having me.
MJ: Well, I am amazed by your story which I should tell listeners came to us via an email that a ward member of yours sent in and said, April's story is amazing. You should talk to her. And I did some research and was so impressed by your story myself. So I'm so so excited to have the chance to talk to you today.
AG: Awesome. I'm excited to share.
MJ: Well, April, you were a mother of five, three of whom had special needs when you began being abused, or had there been abuse earlier in your marriage?
AG: So when we got married, we married in the temple, we both had served missions and life was starting out what I call as what you would think like a dawn, right? You've gotten married and you're ready for the day to rise like this dawn of the day, but really, we were actually falling into dusk. And soon we found out we would be going into darkness pretty quickly kind of symbolically there. Because while he had shared some things that he had done in the past, because he had repented and moved forward and always wanted to keep focused in going to the temple and attending things like that, we figured, hey, we're good to go. So within about 18 months to almost two years of the marriage, with the stress of running our own construction business, discovered quickly, that he really struggled with handling stressful situations and turned to drugs and alcohol. And that was something that I thought, okay, I don't understand this. I thought he had taken care of these things, but we've made covenants and I want to, you know, do what I can. I'm just not jumping ship. Because there are programs, there are things. There's opportunities. And so I just kind of took it into that realm. However, I learned pretty quickly that if the person who you would like to have the help, if they don't want the help, you really can't help. So then the stress started in with a lot of neglect and from the neglect, it went into more mental and emotional, and then spiritual abuse. So that's kind of where things got. By the time the our third child was born, we were facing some really interesting things with the children as far as their health needs and concerns and with pediatricians kind of flagging us saying, you know, they might have some learning disabilities. Maybe even autism. So we were just kind of adding more stress onto the plate. And it was a challenge.
MJ: Yeah. I'm sure that many people listening April, are parents or love someone who struggles with special needs. So can you tell us a little bit about your family and about your children, specifically those who deal with special needs?
AG: Yes. So we had five children together. And our five children the first three are on the autism spectrum. My oldest, he was very verbal...he didn't have any quote, you know, red flags or anything like that. My second one, very nonverbal. A lot of headbanging couldn't understand what he needed. No speech. My third similar in that way, but his sensory needs were really intense. So we're trying to work through those types of intensities. And with my husband, he has mental illness of bipolar schizophrenia, but that was not diagnosed at that particular time. So he's dealing with his own realities and non realities. And then with children, having struggles with connecting to you, and communicating with you. It was like, I was entering a world for them, and then trying to enter back into a world with my husband. And I were just in the dark, trying to know what to do. I needed guidance. And it was a little bit of a challenge.
MJ: Yeah, I can only even...I can't actually even imagine what that would have been like, but can you kind of explain for those listening a little bit more about what your day to day life felt like during that time period?
AG: Sure. I would remember feeling that idea of never really saying amen to any of my prayers, because I didn't want the lifeline to stop, I needed constant direction. And again, I just felt that as far as our marriage was concerned that eventually a way would open up, and his heart would soften, and he would want to get help so I just kind of held on while we were still trying to figure out things with the children. So that's kind of how that went.
MJ: Yeah. One thing that I thought was fascinating when I listened to another interview that you did you talked about how there are two different types of abusers: the hunter and the caged animal. Can you explain for those listening what those two different types of abusers are like?
AG: The hunter is somebody who grooms their prey. If you really think about how a hunter goes out and you know catches or shoots with whatever they're going to do, they camouflage, they know the terrain. They know the behavior of whatever it is that they're hunting, you know, if it's a deer, or if it's, you know, birds or whatever, they know what they're going for. So they target, they groom and they understand how they're going to get in there. Now, their tactics, they can be camouflage, right? Where they're going to present something that's false, so that they can get in as close as possible and then snare, right? So that's the hunters they know really consciously what it is they're doing, because of possibly their past history, their past pain, whatever that part of it is that drives them to towards this behavior is something that they're going to need to figure out and come to grips with if they're ever going to, you know, really get help and change. So most abusers are in this category where they want to control something and the control and the power is how a hunter goes in.
Now a caged animal is slightly different, but the end results are abuse. So a caged animal is just like that. If you have ever approached, maybe you had to set a raccoon trap in your backyard or something, and the animal is trapped in there. And then as you approach the cage or the contraption, they're very defensive, they're ready to strike. They're curled up against the back of that cage, and they are going to go for it if they can at all possible, right? They don't know if you're there to help or to hurt. And so every time you go to approach they're going to strike and their unpredictable, striking moments end up just like abuse. Now their drive, and their motivation is different than what a hunter is. But again, the result is the same.
MJ: That is so interesting. So when you're in the middle of this abusive relationship, April, and you're trying so hard to take care of your kids, and you're trying to figure out what to do, whether to stay or to go, what were some of your biggest questions in the middle of that situation, and how did you feel toward God?
AG: So my feeling towards my Heavenly Father was that I always knew he was there. I really felt that I had to try. There was so much at risk. Now I will say this, because of how the mental illness worked. They were times where I would call them seasons. And in these seasons, I felt very, very close to my Heavenly Father and my former husband. He would definitely be in that repentant cycle where he would repent, change his ways, you know, become dry and sober, we would attend church together, there was always a line of hope. And it kind of hooked you along, right? And so for maybe four, maybe even five months, we'd have clean behavior, drug and alcohol free, the mental and verbal abuse would totally cease and desist. And there was just this real, real hope. And so you would give into physical needs, and soon we'd find out that we're pregnant again. And so I kind of had these five seasons because I have five children, and that this closeness that would come, it was so, so close. I never left my Heavenly Father and I knew He was there with me. And while my former husband would try to return and try to get back, yes, there was definitely more light and that excitement but as he would fall down again, kind of in that cycle that would trap him, we would never really surface as high as we were prior to the fall. And those were really challenging times when I would plead a lot of the times try to read through my scriptures and figure out "What is my role here? Am I to just keep going? When is enough enough?" And I wouldn't say that the heavens were quiet, wasn't like that. It was just as simple as "Not yet." So I went with that.
MJ: Yeah. April, you wrote an article for the Church. And in this article, one of the things that was interesting to me that you said, you said personal revelation led you to know the time to leave. I'm curious what what led up to that point, what got you to that point?
AG: So up to that point, we had a great experience with one of the wards I was a member of. And we had, we all went on Trek, right? So the trek that we went on was up by Martin's Cove. And through that experience of doing this where my fourth great grandmother, she experienced the whole thing. She was in the Martin company and I wanted to be a part of this so badly. I just felt like that if I could understand her story and how she endured things, maybe I can endure even better in this marriage and in the situation I was in because I was fully committed. I was just like, well, I guess we're just this is how life will be. Through that experience, I learned that I was going to have to drastically change things. And I was excited for this and really scared because I had been able to be home and as a stay at home mom, I had some sort of stability and control. And so the revelation that led me to, well, now you're going to start working was a real interesting challenge. Because through work, I was finally able to make the financial plan to be able to escape.
But that also meant I had to really release the control on what I was doing at home as far as the most stability that I could offer. And I just had to really trust the Lord that this was how it was going to go forward. And in getting and receiving work as a teacher, that was definitely the financial means in order for us to make a huge foundational planning to escape.
MJ: And the job that you got, you became a special education teacher. Is that right?
AG: Yes. Uh huh.
MJ: I love that. I think that's so neat. Such a neat part of your story. So one of the things that you wrote in the article for the Church, you said you "finally stopped listening to the voice of the adversary that told me there was no way out." I think that that's kind of a feeling that regardless of whether its domestic abuse or addiction, or whatever it is that we as human beings deal with, the adversary makes us think there's no way out. And so I'm curious for you, what did that voice sound like?
AG: So for me, I call it the shame shadow. Because just like, a shadow follows you everywhere. And as there's opposition in all things, it's always going to be there. What I realized was the choice that I finally had, the choice was there all the time. But I finally understood, I don't always have to look at the shadow. I don't always have to look at this darkness. I can actually turn my head towards the source of light
And that was mind blowing. It was so freeing, and almost like everything with the gospel, anything that has to do with our Savior, the simplicity is so concrete. It doesn't make it easy. But the simplicity is there.
MJ: Yeah. So what would you say April is probably the biggest fear that might prevent someone who's being abused from getting out of an abusive relationship?
AG: Hands down, the number one fear is danger. This fear comes in where you're concerned about what's going to happen next. Believe it or not, while I was a stay at home mom, I still had some sort of control. I still had some ways to kind of get through. I could maybe manipulate a little bit here and a little bit there. Even though the abuse was happening. I still kind of knew where my ground footing was. When you are ready to leave, you don't know what's going to happen next. And I wrote a chapter about this, where going from that, that caged animal, to where I felt like I was now hunted, when we made the decision to leave it is the most dangerous decision to make in domestic abuse. Because they have the abuser has a loss then. And that means that they intensify their search, they intensify what they're going to do, and the rationality that they had, even though it seems so small, well it basically completely dissolves, and they are just going to go to get what was lost and bring it back. And so it's the most dangerous time when you leave domestic violence. That's why you have to have so much what I call supporters involved. And I'm not just talking about professional advocates. Of course, we need those as well, our court appointed helpers that that get us through like protective orders, restraining orders, things like that shelters all very important. But at the same time, those are still short term. We need supporters for the long term. And that means friends, family, possibly co-workers, and maybe even a stranger. And I share those stories in "Pinpoints of Light," and how we escaped because they were vital in my plan for escape. So I didn't return. Now I tried to leave one time and ended up returning. I didn't have the supports in place. I thought that if I just tried a little here and tried a little there somehow it would work out. When I had to return to this situation, it even gave me more resolve that the next time I go, I'm gone. And so that's it's just the fear factor is there. It is the most dangerous time when anyone in an abusive situation leaves. Now some people say, Well, I wasn't physically abused, I was emotionally and spiritually abused or verbally abuse that will intensify. And it will intensify to the place where it could physically also become dangerous. They can cut off your contacts, the isolation that they try to do, it's just like any other Hunter, right? They are going to go after the pack and isolate out the weak one, so to speak, and get them as far away from any help as possible. And so red flags for sure are when they want you to just be with them. And they try to help kind of ease like, cut off friendships, maybe disconnect with families possibly even make big moves across country or anything like that. So they can isolate you and you don't have that network. Or suddenly you try to find yourself networking with strangers in unfamiliar areas, and you just don't exactly know what to do. And when you do take off, when they start to hunt you down, it truly is like that. It's really tragic and unfortunate.
MJ: Yeah, a question that just came to my mind and I would like to get your take on it is I think it's so interesting what you were just saying about them trying to isolate you and get you in a situation where there's more dependence on them. In your situation, you're married to this person. And so you're trying to make your marriage work. And so I can only imagine how hard it would be to find that balance between taking care of yourself and making sure that you're not put in a situation where you're completely and utterly alone with the exception of this one person, but also trying to find a way for your marriage to survive at the same time. Can you speak to that at all?
AG: I'll do my best with that. I was isolated in one of the areas that we had moved to. Now we did have some neighbors, they were a little bit distant. But as far as isolation towards any kind of help, like going to a store, getting help from a police department, we were miles and miles away from. So that was something that was really, really terrifying actually. When we decided to...when I was prompted that I was going to need to start working. I used some of his mental challenges with the mental illness towards my advantage, and I had to take this manipulation to the best that I could, because he didn't want the kids to be in school. He didn't want the kids to be around anybody else again, because you're making connections. Well, I have to talk his or her teacher. They want to keep it within the family as isolated as possible. So when I talked about, "Hey, I'm going to be working. I've got this teaching job coming up." And I used it to his sense of schizophrenia where he literally had people that were in his life that weren't real, but he would talk to them as if they were absolutely concrete standing right there. And so I used one of his characters that he would see all the time. And I would say that that particular character told me that we had to go to the school, it would be the best we would be the safest, no one would follow us, you know, I had to kind of twist it to our advantage, and he bought into it. And without that buy in, we would never have been able to leave an isolated Valley and get back to a city situation. And now we were back in the city and as I was working and bringing things in, I could, under kind of all underground, I had to open my own bank accounts, put everything in my own name, and just do this second life.
And yet maintain on the surface that everything was just like it was. So it wouldn't trigger off an episode. It wouldn't trigger off something else that possibly could go wrong or hurt the kids anymore. And so you just have to come to that point. And those are the real, inspirational pieces that I would receive of timing that would work out, like in setting up a bank account, timing that worked out in getting us to move back to a city situation versus a rural situation. And that's what we did.
MJ: Wow. People can read or listen to your book. For more information about your story, but I want to kind of delve into some of the the gospel aspects of this. You wrote that it was by gaining evidence of your blessings, that you were able to silence that voice of the adversary. And I thought that was so beautifully put, but I'm curious about, or I wonder if you would be willing to share kind of what you mean by gaining evidence of your blessings in an effort to silence the adversary.
AG: So, upon returning from that trip, I had asked for a priesthood blessing from a bishop, because I had not been able to really receive one or really even asked for one, but there was a little bit of a time slot where he was gone and, and I took advantage of it, and finally received a priesthood blessing and it was through that blessing that I understood clearly the next piece of where we were going to be. And that gave me a perspective to really start to pull out of this darkness, that shadow I had been where I felt like I was forced to always look at, I was turning my head back towards more and more light, more of these pinpoints. And I was given that understanding that if I used my faith and took action on a blessing or a pinpoint that was placed in front of me, then a next one would appear, and then the next one would appear, and then the next. And so it took all the faith that I had to do that, because the other side of me is saying, you know, he's going to do this, if he finds out, you know what's going to hit the fan, right? So that fear just really started to drum up and I had to silence it and move to this next piece, act on it and everything worked out. And when I'm talking about everything worked out, it was unbelievable. I went from being a stay at home mom for almost nine years to getting enrolled into a master's program with a full scholarship. That would also give me a special education certification. All of those things happened within about a 48 hour period. Because everything had lined up.
It was completely answers, like it couldn't deny it. And then the next set, and then the next set. So all of those things started happening around in June, and we left in November. So it wasn't like within a week, because these things take time. And the Lord's timing is the Lord's timing. So I had to really remember that and wait patiently for the next piece. But I didn't sit back. I had my action and I was doing what I was supposed to do. And then the next one would pop.
MJ: Yeah, I love this idea, the title of your book, pinpoints of light, and how it's these little, little pieces that kind of build upon each other. April, still, during this period of time you have your five children and you're trying to take care of them and yourself simultaneously. How did you continue to do that as these pieces started to kind of come together?
AG: I learned while I was on my mission, that in, in your study time, you have time to study which is you in the Lord, and then your companionship, study, and so on and so forth. So that time to study was a great habit building piece for my entire life, which always happened in the morning, and I would call it my walk and talk and I would do literally go out of the house and walk around the block or walk around the farm field or wherever I was because we moved in so many different areas in the early early morning. And that was my time to get a little bit of movement exercise in. But really to talk, I had to speak out loud while my body moved in order for me to understand and gain clarity. If I stayed quiet, and tried to think through things and not moved, my mind would just circle and circle and circle and I could never really get anywhere. So maybe that's just unique to me. But I had to do these walking talks with my Heavenly Father to gain that clarity. And it didn't take a long time. The maximum amount of time was about about 30 minutes, but I did it every morning, no matter what had happened through the night. And that was a saving grace, for sure.
MJ: I think that's such a great suggestion. Another thing in a podcast interview that I listened to that you did you talked about how you don't like the word self esteem, because it comes from men and not from God. And you've talked multiple times during our conversation about having a relationship with God spending time to talk to God. And so what comes from God, if it's not self esteem, what do you gain from having that relationship with God?
AG: Well, just like you said, esteem comes from man, I always call it your self worth. It is the worth of who your soul is, what your light is, your worth equals your light. And we were all born with the light of Christ within us. Whether you are a member of the Church or not, all have this light and that is the worth. With that worth. We have so many opportunities to really connect in with other people with diety with, you know, opportunities to serve, and so forth.
As we are going through life and as you go through the trials and the ups and downs, that worth, that self worth that light within you is able to become stronger and brighter. And that is really such a gift that can guide you in so many ways.
MJ: Yeah. In the first email correspondence that we had April, you mentioned that you had read a blog post that I had written about pain and suffering being a necessary part of our mortal experience. And you talked about the idea that of our agency and how important our agency is, what has your experience in surviving domestic abuse, taught you about agency?
AG: Agency is an amazing gift. And it can be amazingly frustrating because each one of us has it. Each one of us is given the opportunity to do what we will with it. And our Heavenly Father is not going to mess with it.
He's going to give you opportunities, he's going to give you choices, you have abilities to do all these things. And he's not going to control anything, because that's what Satan does. Satan, the destroyer, the shame shadow, you know, there's lots of terms for it. His ultimate thing is to control, right? Control and manipulate and gain the glory. Well, Heavenly Father's not going to do that. He's going to allow the agency to be there. And He trusts us. We are from Him. We have this light. And when we act on it, the agency, wow, it's amazing. So I remember my first probably, let's see, I would say we were about four years in, and I had one of those prayerful moments in my walk and talks where I was just so angry with the decisions that my former husband was making, and I was just yelling to the sky like, "Can't us see? Can't you help? We're trying to do all of this. He is doing all of that." I started to divide it into a we and him and we and him, right? And it was very simple. But it was very clear. And it was, "He is my son too. And I'm not going to interfere. That's what you should do." And it was so hard. Because for the longest time, my thinking had been, I'm living righteously. I'm doing all that I can, can't we just get a little reprieve here? And not at the cost of someone else's agency. And that is so hard to accept. And if we truly trust the Lord, eventually they will make choices that will hinder some of those things and ways for us open up if we are looking for them, but if we're always looking backwards at our shadow and at the pain, we miss them. There might be another opportunity. You might miss it. He might put another one out there. Opportunities are for all. If we're numb, stoned out, drugged out, whatever, we're missing those all the time. But he's not going to put down the roadblock and smack ya in the face and control anything. He'll put the guideposts out there. He'll try I mean, goodness, prophets, teachers, bishops, family members, we're all here to be those pinpoints, but sometimes where our focus is we're not able to see it.
MJ: Yeah. Well, before we get to our last couple of questions, I don't want to just leave people hanging on how your story turns out. So after you were able to escape this abusive marriage, you eventually were remarried and you and your current husband have four children, four more children. So you have nine kids total, which is amazing. Hats off to you. But I wondered if you could kind of just give people a little brief synopsis of what transpired in your life from the time that you were able to get out of your marriage to meeting your current husband.
AG: Okay, synopsis here we go. Well the night we left, we were definitely in a homeless situation. And we jumped around from different hotels and motels, friends' basements, apartments, things like that, until we've kind of started to get more settled. We eventually were able to get a home combined with my parents, and we did two years doing kind of that single living and doing the best that we could. My son actually had a terrible accident, in which he was probably going to lose his arm and just all this intensity of that day, I remember crying out, like "I need help." And I knew as soon as I said that, I was like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I'm going to bring that back in. Oh, well, it's out to the universe now. And all I could think of is how am I going to date? I have five kids. I work full time. I'm in school full time, and yet I'm yelling for help. Well, the, you know, heavenly father just doesn't dump on your doorstep. Hey, here's the next. Here it is. It's not going to happen that way. So I knew that dating was going to be involved and I was terrified, but I had already put it out there. And Heavenly Father led me to, again more pinpoints, in which I found my amazing husband, Scott. And Scott was a bachelor, and he accepted these five kids with all the challenges that we had been through. And together we married and then had four more kids. And my two, we have two daughters and two sons together and my two daughters are both deaf, born deaf and my two sons are hearing so we just kind of added a little bit more elements to it where we had some autism going on. And now we have sign language and ASL learning all about deaf. And my eighth child, which happens to be a daughter, she is deaf and also has autism. So I'm like, two for one finally combined. Yep, we go.
MJ: Yeah, you're like, I know how to do this actually.
AG: I think that's why I have so many kids. I finally I'm like, Oh, now I get it.
MJ: Well, that's amazing. You're amazing. I don't know how you do all of that. So my last question before our our question that remains consistent on each episode of this podcast is what advice would you give to someone who is currently a victim of domestic abuse? And I think you know, what you just shared about your your husband now and finding someone who was willing to take you and your family and add to it not only take it as it was, but add to it. I think that's such a beautiful message of hope. And obviously, it's not the way that it goes for everyone. But I think you have a message of hope to share with other people because of what you've been through. And so I'll just let you decide how you want to take this. But what advice would you give to someone who's currently a victim of domestic abuse?
AG: I would give them the absolute assurance that if they trust in God, they will be led to the pathway that is right for them.
They will be led to know what to do at the timing. And I just employee so so many that are in abusive situations, to keep reaching out to keep, to keep ties somehow so that supporters can be there for you. Because throughout this journey, even though we finally left, I mean, we were physically away. But I still needed supporters to help me get through these next pieces, helped me get through until I got married. And then once I got married, I still needed supporters. To get us through these next pieces. You always think about how Heavenly Father and how the Savior work. They put us in families, and they put us in families for a reason. We have families within an actual home. We have a ward family, we have families that can kind of crop up through friendships, and so stay connected. As humans we are meant—we're social creatures, and we need to stay connected and stay together. So the very worst thing you could do is isolate. And the very best thing is to have hope. Follow with what the Savior has laid out there for you and stay connected.
MJ: Beautiful. I think that's such such wonderful advice. April, first of all, thank you so much for being willing to share your story. Obviously, this is something that's deeply personal. But I would imagine that there are many, many people out there who are listening who are in situations that they feel alone or isolated. And hopefully just being able to listen to your voice through their phone or through their computer will help them recognize that they are not alone, that, that we all have a God who loves us, a Heavenly Father, and that we have people placed in our paths to help us. So thank you for sharing all of that. In conclusion, my last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
AG: To be all in means to take action every day in the basics of what we've always been taught: use your faith, read, pray, act on things. When you get the prompting, follow it. When you feel the darkness, work through it, don't throw in, you know, don't throw the towel in and just keep going. The scripture of enduring to the end, there is a piece of endurance throughout life. But there is also another scripture that talks about we are to have joy, and we can endure through anything if we have the Savior with us, because His love is the true power. That brings us back home.
MJ: That's so so spot on. I think, you know, we always hear people say, Oh, the Sunday School answers and that's always bothered me a little bit just because I'm like, it really does all come back to that and I think your story is such a brilliant example of that. Because here is what is undoubtedly one of the hardest life experiences that people can have. And you're saying that that's what got you through it. And so thank you so much again and keep being, keep being amazing. You're doing good things.
AG: Thank you. We are definitely trying to. We want everyone to know that they are worth it. And they're loved.
MJ: Thank you, April.
AG: You're welcome.
MJ: A huge thank you to April Giauque for sharing her experience with us. You can find out more about April's book "Pinpoints of Light" by visiting our show notes at www.ldsliving.com/allin. Also a huge thank you to our sound guy Derek Campbell from Mix At Six Studios and to you for listening. Don't forget to leave us a rating or review if you haven't already, and we'll look forward to being with you again next week.