For 41-year-old Madison Middle School counselor, Candi Murphy, her breakthrough from domestic violence came after leaving a dirty dish in her kitchen sink, something she was never allowed to do during her near five years of mental, physical and sexual abuse.

Originally from Columbia, Kentucky, Murphy began a relationship almost nine years ago with a captain in the military, residing in Georgia, whom she had known since grade school.

"I thought, 'This is someone that will be there for me.' He was great at telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. He would come up for visits, and he would do nice things for my two daughters," she said. "So I thought, 'OK, This is safe. This is what I want to do.'"

From there, Murphy began applying for teaching jobs in Georgia, thinking it was "meant to be" receiving a job offer almost immediately in the same area as her partner.

Within a month of her family's relocation, she knew she had made a mistake. While the abuser had been so kind and sweet, especially to her kids, she began to feel they would be put on the back burner.

"I began to see very quickly it was going to be about what he thought was important," she said.

Being very prideful and thinking of the work it took to move, Murphy thought to adjust herself and stick through it, attempting to acclimate to his needs.

Within two months, he had sexually assaulted her, which Murphy settled in her mind as him being "strong-willed," as he often questioned, "'What do you expect wearing nightgowns and things like that?'" She decided to be more careful about what she wore around the home.

Within six months, Murphy said, she had no clue what was going to trigger her abuser.

By that point, Murphy said, she was in such a mode of trying to adjust herself, she cut herself off from her family and coworkers at school because they began to notice bruises on her arms and face.

"Everything had to be perfect. The house had to be perfect. Dinner had to be made before he got home, even if he didn't let me know he would be early," she said. "I just got into that routine of trying so hard to please him, and I felt like, 'If I just do a little better, he will not do that anymore.'"

It wasn't until they got word of a permanent change of station to Fort Campbell that her abuser began to take a lot of Ambien with alcohol, which she said caused an escalation in the sexual assaults, "rough-housing," shoving and shouting.

In December 2013, "a defining moment" would unfold for Murphy when an incident occurred after going to the emergency room for a migraine by herself.

With her abuser being the head of the ER department, employees asked why he wasn't alongside her, prompting a call from his commanding officer.

Panicking and begging them not to call, Murphy insisted that she was fine, and was sent home without her medicine stating her partner needed to be with her.

Embarrassed and inflamed, her abuser was waiting for her when she came home. He became so angry that he headbutted her face, breaking her nose in three places and crushing her sinuses. In attempts to defend herself, she punched her abuser's face, angering him further.

Having witnessed the abuse, Murphy's eldest daughter phoned her grandmother, who prompted the girl to call 911.

And although he was arrested that night, Murphy told the police and court systems she was fine and did not want a protective order.

"I went back home and I was going to continue that cycle, even though we had this big moment. I was going to go back into the cycle," she said. "Unfortunately a lot of times in civilian court -- and I am not trying to judge -- but I think a lot of times, they take the word of the victim a little too readily, because the victim has not had someone to intervene on their behalf, and they are still very much so in that mode of 'I must be told what to do, I have to be perfect.'"

He was returned home for a short period until the military court system became involved, taking him to the barracks and moving forward with charges, although Murphy herself didn't want charges to be filed.

Subpoena after subpoena, she was called to testify and did not go, as she knew he would go to prison and was still receiving threats while he was incarcerated.

Murphy was able to speak with a counselor a short while before the sentencing. The abuser's ex-wife, who experienced the same ordeal as Murphy, testified, which resulted in his sentence to 16 years in Leavenworth Military Prison.

"I bawled my eyes out," Murphy said. "I was very much someone's tool, someone's property, and I thought, 'How was I going to function?'"

For two months, Murphy kept with her abuser's routine, making sure everything was perfect, until she left one solitary dish in the sink with no regard to consequences.

"I left that dish there, and I just looked at it and thought, 'No one is going to yell at me. Nothing is going to happen,' and I know it sounds silly to say that a dish was my breaking point, but it was," she said. "Because I realized I was able to be my own person. I left that dish in the sink and watched them stack up. That was a defining moment for me."

Murphy said if the military had not stepped in and taken control of the legal proceedings, she doesn't know where she would be.

And while she said there were clearly bad times for the couple, there were good moments, too.

"You live for those moments, and once those are gone, you have the negative cycle to separate from and the positive as well, and you think, 'What do I do?' You go from someone who has survived it to someone that is thriving," she said.

And thrive she has, having moved back to Kentucky to be closer to family and friends, becoming a finalist for Kentucky Teacher of the Year, winning School Counselor of the Year, adopting a third child and finishing her doctorate degree.

"I don't believe that everything happens for a reason," she said. "Everything does not happen for a reason. But you can take everything that happens and give it a purpose."

Murphy said anyone in a similar situation needs to seek help in order to "stop seeing the world through a distorted lens" and to get out of an abusive mindset.

"You can't correct your behavior over and over again. There will always be something that is not enough," she said. "That is not a them problem, that is an abuser problem."

For help with domestic violence, call the domestic violence hotline at 625-0213.


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