OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- She was almost unrecognizable after the incident. The bruises and the swelling faded away and on the outside you probably couldn’t tell that Heather Duhachek-Chase had once been so close to losing her life. But the attack left her family with more than any physical scar could.
It was about five years ago that Heather dropped her kids off at her ex-husband’s house when they began to argue. She had left him months earlier after she says he started to break things around the house.
On this day their arguing was different. He said if she left before he was done talking that he would never see their kids again. Heather told him he shouldn't put their kids between them in a way that would instill the fear they'd never see their father. On the way out she blurted out that he was crazy for acting the way he did. As she turned she heard him ask, “What did you say?” and before she knew it she had been pulled by her hair onto the ground.
Her children watched as their father strangled their mother. "There's pieces of it that I will never forget. You know, like looking up and seeing the bottom of a shoe above my face," said Heather.
As he continued to beat her, she says he yelled, “I’m going to jail tonight.”
"I was laying on the floor and I was close to losing consciousness and I remember just praying saying 'please God just let me live through this. If you let me live through this I will make it up to you.'"
As her ex-husband went to grab a butcher knife Heather managed to get away with her three kids and hide at the neighbor’s place. Investigators would later ask her why he even had a giant meat clever of a knife. That only left her with horrible questions in her mind.
Heather and her son now suffer from PTSD. The then three-year-old started acting up.
"He basically went from a rambunctious three-year-old to a kid that was strangling kids overnight. He was pulling knives on other kids," she told WOWT 6 News. "He would say to me. If you don't do what I say I'm going to do to you what daddy did."
They’ve all been through years of behavioral classes and therapy. Her two daughters suffer from forms of depression and anxiety.
Five years removed they’ve healed. Heather doesn’t think they’ll ever be completely done with what they’ve experienced but they’ve moved on to better things.
“It’s kind of like a scar. You look down at it and go; yeah I remember that and then you just move on.”
Her son likes to play football, and her daughters join in when they play in the backyard.
“We’re all walking out there and we’re playing football in the wide open. We’re not hiding anymore and we’re not scared anymore,” she said.
Heather crated a group called Generation Hope. She and her team work with families to give them the support system they need when dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. Having been through it herself she sees her past as an opportunity to prevent victims from dealing with the loneliness and the fears that come from these situations.
“Every single day the rest of my life I will work for survivors so that nobody has to ever endure laying on a dirty hallway floor of an apartment complex getting beat to death almost in front of their children.”
While it’s not the first time she’s shared her story, she knows it won’t be her last. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She chose to rehash her experience with WOWT 6 News in hopes that anyone going through the pain she’s felt can see that there is a safe way out of it.
“We’re here. You don’t have to put up with this. I know you feel like right now you might, but you don’t have to put up with this,” Heather said.
More resources can be found at genhopecounseling.com.