Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Changes bring new attitude

Hailey woman continues her progress

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Express Staff Writer

Jennifer Colver readies herself to face the world. Photo by David N. Seelig

Reconstruction of a Life:
Third in a series of three

Looking healthy and comfortable, the once self-described downtrodden party girl Jennifer Colver revels in her positive new attitude.

"You have to be able to get out of the guilt and shame in order to go forward," she said.

Changes have been the norm for the 41-year-old Hailey resident. She married because she was pregnant and was physically abused for years to the point of severe scarring and injury to her face and body. She divorced, remarried another man, had another child and divorced again.

Finally, she sought help. The Advocates for Survivors for Domestic Violence in Hailey counseled her, loaned her money to get on her feet and eventually helped her apply for two programs called Face to Face and Give Back a Smile. In order to have her nose reconstructed, she underwent septorhinoplasty in October at Boise's Treasure Valley Hospital courtesy of Face to Face member Dr. Bret Rodgers.

The organizations help women who are victims of domestic abuse by connecting them up with physicians in their area. The board-certified medical personnel donate time and expertise to repair both physical and psychological scars so women can regain their self-esteem and rebuild their lives, all pro bono.

Colver was a great choice as the first person in Idaho to receive this help, and not just because she was deserving. She's taking the help she's received and is running with it, paying forward. Colver is now a willing advocate for women like herself, and wants to help others find ways of coping and moving on. One of her future pet projects is building transitional housing for women after they leave shelters. She cites as example Denise Brown, who has spearheaded an organization in California called Nicole's House after her late sister, Nicole Brown Simpson.

"It's harder to get out of a situation than it is to stay in it. That's why so many women—and men stay," Colver added. "They need help getting out."

As well as the septorhinoplasty she received, Colver also received extensive dental work from Ketchum dentist Jeffrey Roth. Colver is awaiting the final step in the process, a new set of veneered front teeth and partials for the back teeth.

She also was introduced to Ketchum acupuncturist Bard Widmer who willingly donated his services as well. His goal is to "help her spirit to catch up with the physical changes," he said. In a few short weeks of treating her he is already cognizant of changes.

"I've noticed a strengthening in her spirit. It's really progressing. The perseverance is paying off, to be on this journey. It all helps with the integration process. We work on general wellness, the whole body and beauty, in that order," he explained. Widmer is a certified acupuncturist who specializes in Facial Rejuvenation.

"As an example, she came after some major dental work and was in pain. We helped expedite the healing process through the acupuncture. We're building a strong foundation in order to do the Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture work. It's renewal from the inside out. The outside has been taken care of absolutely and now we get to complete it."

Colver, who had never had acupuncture before, is still wary after several sessions of the needles.

But, as she said, it's not easy provoking major shifts. Though she had to start the process, it's not just her making the changes now. Her two teenaged children are learning, at the same time, how to break cycles of co-dependency, she said.

Colver is clean, sober and single again and living in a Hailey apartment.

"We're looking for a new place though. There are a lot of domestic disturbances here. We told the neighbors twice that we can hear them but then I got involved," she said. "I was in my pajamas and I asked them to take it someplace else. There should be more of a police presence there, or an outreach to the apartment complex. The Advocates need more people and more funds."

Nothing works Colver up more than relating the problems that still exist for women, getting help and maintaining a healthy life for herself and often for children as well."

"My victim's compensation has still not gone through after applying for it two years ago. Dr. Roth is going forward despite the money not coming."

Give Back a Smile covered only part of Colver's dental work, so extensive was the damage to her mouth and teeth. "I told him (Roth) I didn't want to be left with temps in," she said. "I get the permanent teeth on Dec. 22. Dr. Roth said, 'We'll figure it out.'"

Figuring it out continues to be the main and most important aspect of Colver's growth. She admits that from an early age—she dropped out of high school—she considered herself ugly and horrible. She was told this repeatedly and treated herself with the same disregard. Learning to respect herself has been a struggle after years of conditioning. Her parents and siblings are learning as well to deal with Colver with her positive and confident outlook. After all they haven't changed, she has. It takes some getting used to, she said. Colver wrestles with the results, but remains steadfast.

"This is who I am and if they can't respect that, I can't be around it. I am proud of what I've done. My kids are so strong. They've had their own issues as a result of what I've been through. It's now coming together. It's functional. We have a family meeting every Sunday and set down our goals for the week. You're not only breaking the cycle with yourself but with your children."

Changes keep coming. They moved since she became sober a year ago, and have been in counseling. But they've also seen her fall off the wagon a few times before in their youth and return to destructive relationships.

"That is a fear of feeling good," she explained. "You can slip back anytime. But I brought our Christmas decorations over from the house we lived in (with her now ex-boyfriend of seven years). My daughter started putting the decorations all over and I was crying. But I saw that life goes on. They're continuing. They told me 'this is the last time.' I can see that.

Colver is planning on earning her GED next year. She wants to speak on other abused women's behalf. And she is also concerned about the welfare of men.

There is no place for an abused man to go and the stigma of seeking help is severe. "It's important men set a good example for their sons but if they've been abused, verbally or physically, it's not easy for them," she said.

"There are educational aspects to setting a good example. Helping men will help their kids."

Colver knows men who could use help and she's dreaming of ways to help.

"My brother said he couldn't believe the change in me. He said, 'you have a goal and a way in life now.' Now I know I can be anything I want."

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