Mom Reveals What Hides Behind 'Happy' Social Media Photos After Colorado Murder

Julie VanderLaan/Facebook

Julie VanderLaan
Julie VanderLaan/Facebook

Recently, a Colorado dad named Chris Watts was arrested for allegedly killing his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two little girls, Bella and Celeste. The tragic news was described as "shocking" by those close to the family who say they didn't see it coming. The horrific situation has since sparked a larger conversation about domestic violence. As a response to the news of Shanann and her daughters, a single mom named Julie VanderLaan decided to share her own experience with domestic abuse in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. 

  • The emotional post describes specific instances of abuse that Julie suffered during a previous relationship. 

    Julie shared on Facebook

    "The news in Colorado ... is heavy on my heart. A man killed his pregnant wife and two toddler daughters. What hurts ... is that everything I've read ... no one 'knew.' Her social media boasts pictures of a happy family -- their friends and family 'had no idea' there were problems. He is a 'great guy ... a great husband and father" -- how could he have done this!?"

    Then, Julie explained that it's because these things tend to happen when no one is looking. "I’m not posting this for attention, I have LIVED this," she wrote. She explained that when she left her abusive husband, everyone was surprised and thought she was giving up on her marriage. 

    But, she realized that the safety of herself and her daughter were more important.

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  • "The man you love ... Does he call you a b*tch? A c*nt? A wh*re? That's not love," she shared.  

    Julie described times when her ex spit in her face on Mother's Day, called her a "fat*ss" after she gave birth to their child, and told her "good luck leaving, nobody would ever want you ... look at you." 

    She also said he shoved her, took all of the phones so she couldn't call the cops, punched holes in their walls and door, purposely slammed her hand in the door, and locked her outside in the middle of winter. 

    "Have you went to bed at night, locked your bedroom door and still refused to sleep with your back facing the door in case somehow he broke in and you wouldn’t have enough time to react?" Julie wrote. "That's not love."

  • According to Julie, this is when you know it's time to leave:

    If you have ever cried yourself to sleep, prayed for God to change his heart, or prayed for strength to leave, then it's time to leave now "before you are the one on the news," she wrote. She advises women to leave before their family is the one questioning how or why it happened because "they didn't know." Julie continued: 

    "Do I believe people are capable of change? Yes ... I pray they do. There are GOOD men out there. Men who won't even raise their voice, let alone their hand. Find him. You'll then know love."

    Her post has since received more than 116,000 reactions, more than 23,000 comments, and been shared more than 246,000 times. 

  • In a followup post, Julie explained she needed to share her story to "open people's eyes and bring awareness." 

    "At the end of the day, it’s not about me," she wrote. "If that post helped just ONE PERSON get enough courage to up and leave their unhealthy relationship, then I’d share my story 1,000 times over. I was reading through some of the comments earlier and it had me in tears. I just hope that this opens people's eyes and brings awareness as to how common domestic abuse is."

  • "For a long time I was just in denial and thought my story wasn’t severe enough to share," she tells CafeMom.

    Julie left her abusive partner about a year and-a-half ago and she says that for a while, she convinced herself that her story didn't matter because it wasn't "severe enough." However, she has since realized that her story IS valid and it has the potential to help so many other women in similar situations. 

    "At the end of the day, no matter how severe your story is or not, abuse is abuse and I think it’s so important for women to be able to recognize it," she says. "Now looking back on it, it’s a lot easier. My eyes are opened a lot more and I can see that I was being abused, and I just think it’s important for women to know that."

    We think it was incredibly brave that Julie shared her story and we're sure she has inspired so many others. 

    If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, then contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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