Ronalda’s Story

Ronalda Angasan

Ronalda Angasan

I am Ronalda Angasan (Ronalda Rude{Olivera}). I am a survivor of a 20+ year abusive relationship.  Before that, I was in other equally abusive relationships. My mother, my aunts, my grandmother – all survivors of either rape, domestic violence, or assault (in some cases – all three). As Alaska Natives we have many traditions, this is one I hope stops with my generation.

Amariah

Amariah

I would run from the toxicity of my home to my grandfather’s house. I would escape in a world of denial, in a world of young teenagers playing adults-drinking. This led to me meeting the father of my only biological child. He was 21, I was 16. He was in and out of jail. I was trying to graduate high school. I got pregnant at 17. I did what I could to have a family for my daughter. I stopped going to the parties, I graduated, I worked. He partied, he got arrested, he left for another woman and did not look back.

Unfortunately, I did not learn my lessons easily. I met an older man, someone that said that he had a good job, was a father, and dedicated to family, a perfect person for me to start a life with. He promised me the world, that he would love my baby as his own. Instead of love, I— along with my precious baby girl, — endured 20 years of control. We were possessions, not people. 

My two-decade relationship had physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. These secrets were well hidden from his friends, from family, from the community which made him a local hero. He ran for the school board, he coached wrestling, he officiated volleyball. He was a constant figure in the schools, and this made him well known and loved in the community.

I moved in with him and his four boys. We were crowded; he suggested that we should move my mother’s rental unit in Wasilla. This house was my mother and father’s and was being used as source of income- a rental. He set forth on evicting the family living in the home so we could move in before the holidays in 1994. Shortly after, we fought. One fight I ended up with a black eye. He told everyone a softball hit me in the face, but I do not play softball.

Our relationship started out dysfunctional, and when I escaped I saw that from the beginning he was grooming me for a life of control, abuse, and torment.

I was often told I was pretty. Even though I was encouraged to look nice, any attention I received caused him to call me names. He would threaten to hurt anyone that talked to me, and he told me that I must want to go with them. Within a year I held my head down, did not look people in the eyes unless he approved of them.

He set out to turn my family and me against each other. Telling me that they do not love me, only need me. That they lie and are all just addicts. At times, I was completely alienated from parts of my family, including my mother, my aunts and uncles, and my numerous cousins.  I lived close to many of them, but was not allowed to talk to them.

We lived in my family’s home until 2011. This house was perfect for locking me in the bedroom, the walk-in closet, holding me down, chocking me until I passed out, and all other forms of assault.  He told me no one would believe me since he was my husband, and it was a part of being married. I was constantly told it was my fault, and I should not provoke him.  If I was brave enough to say I was going to leave, he would say “fine, go.”  However, you are not going to win a custody battle for Amariah, as had happened with his first wife. Not only did she lose custody of their three boys together, but also of her oldest from another relationship. So I lived in fear of him taking her from me. I could survive a lot, but I cannot survive a life without my daughter.

In the years of living in Wasilla, he would have epic parties. Some of these lasted for days with his friends staying at my house. He would brag that I was there to serve him, that I was his chiterlly. He became known for his parities, and how much fun they were. What his friends did not see was the aftermath. The fighting, the put downs, the messes left for me to clean. The last of our money spent on drugs, alcohol, and food to entertain them. They did not see me struggling to feed five children with no money, no assistance because he was sleeping it off. Over the holidays my daughter hid in her room to stay away from the fighting, the yelling, and the name-calling. She hid during parties, and —when possible — would leave the house entirely.  She was called names, made fun of, and bullied by what was supposed to be her loving father.

This story is her story, too. My daughter’s entire life was filled with his jealousy. If I tried to have a private conversation with her, something important would come up to stop the time alone with her.

In 2003, my mother deeded us the house. This had to be done in both our names or it was not allowed to happen. In all of our years together, he worked sporadically at best. He would work low paying, temporary positions.

While I was encouraged to work in office jobs with higher pay. I became a program director, an administrator, a manager, and a HR Director. I had good jobs with higher than average pay. We survived off my salary and my benefits. He spent it faster than I made it. I had a hard time keeping a position for more than a few years. He would harass me at work with continuing calls to check up on me. He would show up at my office to make sure I was following his rules; I had to tell him of my every move throughout the day and account for how many times I spoke to male colleagues.

He traveled with his boys for wrestling and to visit friends and family.  He frequented Las Vegas, Tijuana Mexico, and other locations.  He took trips after my father passed, after my grandfather passed, and after my grandmother passed. I faced all but one of these funerals without him.  My grief was to be gotten over, no big deal. 

After one party in 2006, a huge fight broke out. He repeatedly hit me in the face. Usually he kept the bruises low to hide. I got scared enough to call the troopers. He fled on foot. They found him hiding outside the house in a heating shed. He went to jail. I bailed him out and we left on a wrestling trip the next day. We told an entire college wrestling team I was in a car wreck and that it was my fault. I do not drive.

This charge went to trial, he had me argue for his innocence, and have the charge reduced to assault three. It would have been hell to pay if I didn’t do what he wanted. He received time served. Weapons still allowed. No restraining order allowed. No changes to ban him from working with children.

In 2008, we lost a son.  He was 25 years old. He passed away from heart problems and complications brought on by alcohol. When he passed, he had cut us out of his life to avoid the constant abuse. Losing Robert set it in motion to make major changes. I was devastated, broken, and I was told I had to get back to work. I had to work through the grief while still caring and supporting the family with little help. He escaped by drinking a bottle of vodka a night in his room.

Around this time, I was getting sick — a lot. I had painful times of not being able to move, eat, or function.  I was in and out of doctors’ offices.  I saw specialists, had tests, and had three surgeries. None of this stopped the pain attacks. The doctors saw the attacks but could not say why they were happening. I was tested medically and mentally. I was prescribed for pain medications, for stomach issues, and for anxiety.  He regulated my medications. When I left him, I found empty pain pill bottles in my name. He was putting the medications into my food without my knowledge. I would sleep 10-12 hours a day.

 In 2009 - 2010 he was working, and his position was an excuse to travel for long periods. He met other women while traveling. This is when I made a move to leave him; I was going to take my daughter and go. I would leave him with my family home and all the assets I purchased.  He found out and returned home without notice.

He found my bags packed by the door. 

He took my phone from me.

He locked me in our room for three days. 

He choked me until I passed out. 

He told me if he could not have me, no one could. 

He meant it. 

When I finally got away from him, I ran. I ran, I got a new phone, and he found out.  He would not accept that I was gone. He would not leave me alone. He found me no matter where I went, where I stayed.

 He told me he had cancer, and that he needed me to get him through it for the kids. This was supposedly his fourth or fifth bout of cancer. He agreed to one month of counseling.  He chose the counselor, a family member of one of his closest friends. He told her it was his fault entirely, and that he would not do that again.  He did not do anything — until we moved from Wasilla. Away from my family, away from anywhere I could run and be safe.

In late 2010, or early 2011, we sold my family home for less than it was worth.  He used the money to purchase a foreclosed home in Campo California. Campo has a population of about 2,500 people. It is very rural, and in East County San Diego. The property had to be renovated, and it took all the money from the sale of the house to make this new place livable and for us to survive without jobs. To get to the grocery store, it was a 45-minute drive up and down a windy, mountain road.  He loved to drive fast to see me get carsick. If he left the house without me, I had no phone to use. I had limited access to the outside world without his oversight. All the kids were mostly gone.

At times, my daughter would live with us, and two of his boys would spend time in California with us as well.  However, most of the time it was us alone.  He preferred it this way, with no unapproved outside contact. His daily drinking took most of the money we had. I would lock myself in my room and watch TV in hopes he would pass out sooner than later.

 However, there we were alone in rural California because he had cancer.  He told me he was “going through a cancer drug treatment trial” at the University of San Diego. His last chance at life. The entire time he drank over a bottle of vodka a day. I was not allowed to go with him to chemo, only be there to get his food after, to clean up, and to “help him though his sickness.” When confronted about his cancer during our divorce, he was not able to provide any proof he ever had cancer.

When the kids were gone, the drinking increased, as did the physical and emotional abuse. He would drag me out of the house by my arms, threaten to kill himself, and leave me alone in the middle of nowhere with no way out. He would say that he left the kids messages about killing himself and it was my fault for hurting him. That I had not been there for him.

After years of him telling me he could kill me and destroy my life, he started saying strange things about my pregnant daughter.

This is when I knew I had to leave. 

I knew my life would end if I did not get out, but I started to worry about my unborn grandchild.

I applied for work back in Alaska. I got a dream job at the hospital. I moved home. He followed even though he said he would stay mostly in California. He would show up unannounced. He would call people to check on me. He hired a private investigator to watch me as I worked.

In 2014, his threats towards me and my daughter were increasing, getting more and more crazy. I talked with a friend who offered support online (who I am now married too — but that is another story) and with my cousin who was a trooper, and decided to leave for what I hoped was the last time. I got yet another phone through my mother’s cell plan and called the police. The Anchorage Police met me in a parking lot as I headed out of town. We made a plan to get a restraining order and serve him the next day. 

It took 6 or 7 patrol cars and about 12 officers to get him to leave the house. He packed many of my belongings with his. He took my dogs ashes. He took my grandchild’s clothes that my daughter and I bought over the course of months. He took medications, clothes, artwork off the walls, mementos. I did not care, I just wanted him gone. While he drove off, and I waited in a car by APD, he threw one last threat at me.

Later in the evening, he called to ask if I wanted to go to a concert with him. I reminded him of the restraining order.

The next day, he climbed in my house through a window. As the days went on, his son let him in the house while I was at work and would tell him of my activities. He would call my friends and threaten their lives for being around me. I just wanted him to leave me alone.

He said if I signed over the house in California, he would leave me alone. I did. 

He said if I agreed to the dissolution and all his stipulations (I accept all the debt and get no assets) he would leave me alone.  At first, I did. But then I changed my mind. Everything I had worked for and the items collected throughout my life were mine.

I showed up to the divorce hearing with an attorney from Alaska Legal Services. Adam Gulkis was my pro bono attorney. He let me know I could say I no longer agree to the terms. My then-husband was shocked, sitting next to his new girlfriend who came for the dissolution hearing. I then filed for divorce.

It was a two-year legal battle. It was full of crazy allegations, using the system to further abuse me and intimidate me. The judge told him no contact meant social media as well, but he would bring print-outs of my social media posts to the hearing, claiming they were meant to aggravate him. He was told limiting what I could post was an infringement on my free speech, and reminded that he was not supposed to be looking at my social media pages.

With proof of the threatening emails I was sure that he would go to jail for violation of the restraining order. He went to jail, promptly got bailed out. The DA never contacted me, but negotiated a deal with him and the conviction has been wiped from his record. I attended the final hearing and was the only victim in the crowded court room. I was the only one to give an impact statement. I was told we are sorry this has happened, sorry you cannot go in public alone, sorry you live in fear, but the deal is done.  The DA did not know my name, only his.

I also did not say anything about him publicly. However, he did about me. He added as many of my contacts as he could. He then put long rants about allegations and me on social media for months. To the point where I had acquaintances calling and asking if I was safe — they were afraid for my safety.  Still, he has his supporters — regardless of his abuse. He still works in the schools. After the divorce, he appealed to the State Supreme Court. He lost. This is a victory, however pointless, because will not work, he gave away his assets to his girlfriend, and he has no money on record to pay me.

He reported me to the State of Alaska for insurance and permanent fund dividend fraud. He filed for unemployment and dividends in Alaska under my name, while we were in California. He and I were charged with multiple felonies. I went to court and after working with the district attorney, my charges are gone. He is a convicted felon. While this is a small victory, he will never pay and he did zero time in jail.

With help from Brad, Terrence Shanigan (my cousin), my mother, my daughter, my aunts, and my real friends, and one kick ass attorney — I learned to live.  While I still watch over my shoulder, I can walk outside by myself.  While I worry if I am being watched, I live my life the way I want.  It is not easy, and I fight the anxiety.  I have learned self-defense, and to always be aware of my surroundings.

I must work every day to remind myself that my new life is not like my old one.  I tell myself it is okay to be happy, that those that love me are not going to hurt me because I love them. They will just love me back.  And they do.

In 2014, my now husband – Brad Angasan, started a Facebook page in my honor.  Alaska Natives Against Domestic Violence was created as an outlet, an empowering tool to let me help others and help myself at the same time.  Since then it has grown to over 2,000 members.  I promote this group to let other survivors know they are not alone.  I hope the page helps those looking to get out or survive a domestic violence relationship tips to be safe.  I want this page to raise awareness and not let our stories be yesterday’s news.  Things need to change, we should all be safe from violence and abuse – there is never a good excuse for the criminal actions of those abusers.